Is it time for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to move on?

editor's corner

Jim-OThere was an interesting article in Forbes this morning, an open letter calling for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer to retire. He wouldn't be the first big-name CEO to slip off his pedestal of late; Yahoo's (Nasdaq: YHOO) Carol Bartz was kicked to the curb in September. Last month, Hewlett-Packard dumped Leo Apotheker after just 11 months on the job, but HP is a serial CEO killer. They've gone through seven chief execs since 1999 (Good luck Meg, you might not want to unpack that bag just yet).

It's getting so that being a CEO for some tech companies has all the job security of a coach in the National Football League... a bad season and, BOOM!, you're outta here.

And, with Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) missing its earning projections for the first time in 26 quarters yesterday, even newly anointed CEO Tim Cook might be wise to keep his resume fresh. Investors, especially in this economy, can be a tough crowd.

Which is why it's interesting that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been Teflon through all of the company's recent missteps.

The stock plunged from $304 to just over $110 this morning (see this special report), subscribers are disaffected, analysts are running away from their predictions this summer of what--at the time--seemed like one of those rare phenomenon's: a sure thing.

The company angered subscribers by mishandling its September price increase and irked them again when it said it was spinning off its DVD business, only to reverse that decision before it happened.

Netflix's Hastings has lost his mojo in a big way, and there's not much of a chance the fella's gonna get his groove back.

And yet, aside from some gnashing of teeth, no one has said it might be time for Hastings to step aside. (There are a couple of Facebook pages calling for him to be fired, here, and here, and they make for an interesting morning of reading.)

Wedbush Securities today said it expects the company to start spending in order to bring subscribers back, and to try to sell its 60 percent price hike to wary consumers. And, it said, the $110 a share? It's in line with what it now expects.

Third quarter earnings are due Monday. Will the one million subscriber losses the company in September said it expected actually happen? Will those estimates be low?

That may be the next crisis Hastings faces.

The New York Post this week said it had heard Netflix was a possible acquisition target for Apple and that Hastings would then be in line for the CEO job. (Don't shoot me, I'm only repeating what I read.)

For my money, I think Netflix would be better served giving Hulu's Jason Kilar a jingle.--Jim