If the CEO of Netflix Inc. were in a movie, the townspeople would be chasing him with torches and pitchforks.

The customer reaction was swift and angry against Reed Hastings‘s late Sunday announcement that the company was separating its DVD-by-mail business and its “Watch Instantly” Internet movie-streaming businesses.

Still, Mr. Hastings, a co-founder of the company, indicated that he’s willing to take the short-term heat—and risk losing yet more customers—to usher Netflix into its new digital identity, focused not on snail mail but movies over the Web.

In his overnight email to the company’s 23 million domestic subscribers, Mr. Hastings said the DVD business will be renamed Qwikster, hived off into a separate subsidiary that will have its own billing system, website and list of movies.

By late afternoon on Monday, more than 16,000 users had left comments on the Netflix blog— and the overwhelming majority were livid.

“You are making things significantly worse for us,” one customer wrote, in a screed that echoed many of the others. “Now not only will we have to pay a LOT more for your services, but we will also have to access two separate websites.”
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