Netflix apologizes for launch theatrics

Video-streaming website Netflix Inc. has apologized for allowing actors pretending to be excited new customers to answer reporters' questions during its launch in Toronto.

Video-streaming website Netflix Inc. closed down a Toronto street Wednesday and attracted dozens of onlookers for a splashy launch to promote its highly anticipated foray into Canada.

However, many in the crowd were actors who were paid to be there. And some of those "extras" gave interviews to journalists, who didn't realize they weren't real consumers interested in the product.

The performers recruited for the news conference — where Netflix announced the Canadian service would cost $7.99 a month with a one-month free trial — were asked to spill into the street and encouraged to "play types, for example, mothers, film buffs, tech geeks, couch potatoes etc."

"Extras are to behave as members of the public, out and about enjoying their day-to-day life, who happen upon a street event for Netflix and stop by to check it out," said an information sheet handed out to the actors.

"Extras are to look really excited, particularly if asked by media to do any interviews about the prospect of Netflix in Canada."

After word of the ruse spread on Twitter, Netflix apologized and said the extras should not have been talking to reporters.

A Netflix spokesman said the handout for extras was required to obtain a film permit for the launch. The instruction sheet refers to Wednesday's event as a "corporate documentary."

"I was unaware that script was handed out to extras and that was not supposed to happen," said Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications for Netflix.

"Extras were not supposed to talk to reporters or convey that they were anything other than promotional people.

"Some people got carried away and it's embarrassing to Netflix."