Are times getting desperate for Lovefilm?

door knocking, used under license courtesy of Shutterstock/Ollyy

A friend of mine had an encounter that surprised him, and me, the other day: a knock on the door turned out to be a salesman trying to get him to re-sign to Lovefilm, the subscription video service.

Let me say that again: a door-to-door salesman.

I think that’s a first, for me at least. While lots of internet services market heavily — television ads, radio spots, billboards, leaflets and print — I have never come across this sort of feet-on-the-street approach before. Trying to prevent customer churn is one thing, but this just has the ring of desperation about it… and comes as another piece of anecdotal evidence that suggests Lovefilm’s feeling incredible pressure from Netflix.

When Netflix launched in the UK and Ireland a year ago, it was a clear who would be in its sights. Reed Hastings and his team may say they are targeting the bigger pay-TV services, such as Rupert Murdoch’s Sky, but their first hurdle was undoubtedly trying to surpass the Amazon-owned rival.

Lovefilm has been competing where it can, particularly in trying to head Netflix off at the pass by signing exclusive content deals with Universal, Fox, and others. But it’s also trying extremely hard to defend itself by stopping customers from fleeing: when I tried to unsubscribe a while back I realized it was one of those irritating services that forces you to phone up to cancel (a surefire sign that I will never go back).

And you can’t blame them: it would take a brave gambler to bet against the American company right now.

Netflix is storming on almost all fronts, from its acclaimed original programming, to its balance sheet: Wall Street loves it again, as it finally recovers from the farcical series of events it inflicted upon itself in 2011.

And that is having an impact on its rivals.

Former Lovefilm boss Adam Valkin told me last year how the company had feared Netflix since 2004. And though Netflix still has some way to go — it’s still unclear whether Netflix is making inroads against its real targets, the broadcasters, and claims almost dubiously high membership numbers across the British Isles — it definitely has some crucial competitors, at least, running scared.

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