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Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) is playing nice with yet another studio, agreeing to hold back on renting Sony (NYSE: SNE ) movies during the first 28 days that a new release is out on DVD. According to All Things D's Media Memo column, Sony will reward Netflix's restraint with cheaper DVD prices and broader streaming access.
I'll sheepishly admit that I adamantly opposed this strategy when Netflix began striking similar deals earlier this year.
Despite the cost advantages and the desire to build up its digital catalog, I felt Netflix was cheating subscribers by accepting the four-week window. If local video stores were stocking a new release, and cable providers were renting it on demand, why was Netflix holding out? I felt that Netflix was turning into a second-run cinema house, and I wasn't alone. Two-thirds of the more than 1,700 respondents of the poll at the end of the column agreed with me.
Well, I don't know if the other 1,131 voters have had a change of heart, but I can now say I was wrong. Sure, I get steamed when I see television ads for an upcoming DVD, or see the titles being released come Tuesday in an ad circular -- only to find that I'm four weeks away from having a shot at that flick through Netflix.
However, the masses have responded. They're cool with the 28-day window. Netflix shares have nearly tripled over the past nine months. Churn is low. Subscriber growth is through the roof.
Would things have played out differently if Redbox parent Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR ) hadn't followed suit, or if Blockbuster hadn't filed for bankruptcy reorganization? Probably not. Netflix has become an all-weather performer, seemingly immune to the actions of others.
We can't definitively say that Netflix has these deals unharmed. Subscribers continue to downgrade to cheaper plans since the move, indicating that folks are either gravitating to the streaming model, or turning to just one-disc-out-at-a-time to budget for the newest releases elsewhere.
However, as long as earnings, subscriber counts, and share prices point higher, Netflix's gutsy strategy at the beginning of the year clearly seems validated.
How do you feel about the 28-day window, now in place with four of the major studios? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.