Netflix to Lay Off 50. Blames Silverlight.

In a corporate blog post today, Netflix said 50 of its technical specialists in its customer service group will be let go at the start of next year. The reason? The company isn’t blaming the economy, it’s blaming Microsoft’s Silverlight. From the post:

For those of you who watch movies instantly on your PC or Mac, you may have noticed our player is much easier to install and use now with Silverlight. The good news is fewer problems for you. The bad news is that we are now overstaffed with technical specialists in our Customer Service (CS) group.

Fifty of these technical specialists will work through the holidays and then be let go in early January. Fifteen specialists will take new roles in the main customer service group.

We thought it odd that the company would be reducing headcount in streaming technical support, as streaming is one area where the company is expanding its efforts. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings even told us at NewTeeVee Live that the company was struck by how many people were watching on their laptops. Plus, Silverlight penetration is still not as ubiquitous as Flash, so it would seem you’d need technical people to help with the impending installs.

I asked Steve Swasey, Netflix VP of corporate communications and author of the Netflix post, about the cuts (note to all other Netflix employees, Swasey was online and answering emails at 6:46 a.m.). He sent the following response:

“The tech support folks have been underutilized. They’re specialists and the calls are able to be managed by our main Customer Service group, which continues to grow. In January we will add at least as many people to the main CS group as we’re letting go from the tech group.”

Swasey also said that it hadn’t been getting the level of inquiries from Netflix members that required the higher level of technical expertise in customer service. Any technical issues people have with streaming will be handled by the main customer service team.

The Netflix streaming service hasn’t exactly been problem-free as of late. Users of the Roku and Xbox flavors of Netflix streaming were plagued by poor video quality issues that was caused by an mysterious glitch. Netflix fixed the issue, but declined to identify what happened.

In other Netflix news, TiVo turned on its Netflix streaming capabilities today.

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