As PR stunts go, Netflix’s announcement that it had produced a special four-minute New Year’s Eve countdown episode of its original series “All Hail King Julian” was pure genius. The news spawned hundreds of cute feature pieces in publications ranging from the BBC and People.com to Time and NPR.
It’s understandable why the story was so irresistible to journalists punch-drunk from the lack of substantive story ideas during a slow news week. According to Netflix, it was helping parents who wanted their kids to have a bit of the New Year’s Eve countdown experience on their own schedule. The special four-minute episode of “All Hail King Julian” includes a catchy song and a special countdown to midnight. It’s a cute idea and hey, how could any journalist resist such a great idea?
But while the Netflix PR department and the world’s bored feature journalists might have been thrilled by the idea, many parents seem to be less excited by the special. In fact, the comments thread for the special on Wednesday evening is a non-stop rant from parents who can’t find the special or who are unable to watch the platform on their connected device of choice:
“The app on iOS, android, even in browser on iOS… All no go. You’d think for all the press they were getting over this, they’d make it viewable on a device/Chromecast. Or, you know, make it a “popular on Netflx” or “recently added” selection so it was easy to find.”
“Thanks for completely disappointing my kids. No links or instructions anywhere regarding how to access the NYE countdown. What a crock.”
“Can’t watch on TV what a pain! Actually have to sit the kids down in front of computer to watch.”
“Great idea but took forever to realize that this can only be viewed on the PC…..sorry, but that is kind of lame since we watch everything through the Roku. Maybe next year….”
The problems result from the fact that the “trailers and more” area where the special is located is only available if you’re using Netflix with a laptop or PC. So no mobile devices, connected devices such as Roku or game consoles. Which is not at all what parents expected when they went looking for the special.
The press release from Netflix didn’t mention the restrictions and since no one apparently decided to look for themselves before writing the piece, the King Julian New Year’s Eve Countdown became more of a exercise in frustrating your kids than having a bit of pre-midnight fun with the family.
The sad thing is that all of this frustration could have been avoided if the folks at Netflix would have categorized the special as another “episode” of the show, which would have dropped it into the show page of every device. Yes, it’s a short special and isn’t really a traditional episode. But that’s not a big issue for most people and it’s an alternative that would have eliminated nearly all of the complaints.