I'll admit it.
I fell for Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX ) bait and switch. I was reluctantly streaming when the video buffet operator initially rolled out the service in 2007, but now I consume more streaming content through Netflix than from the red envelopes that arrive at my home.
In short, I'm in what will likely be the majority of Netflix users eyeing a huge price hike come September. I need the discs. I need the streams.
However, the new pricing plans and decision to split discs and streaming into two separate products will force a lot of couch potatoes to reconsider what they expect out of Netflix.
Let's go over some of the companies that will come up short here.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL )
Where would the iPad be today if it wasn't for Netflix streaming?
It may seem like a ludicrous question to ask, but Netflix's streaming application was the most popular third-party download when the original iPad came out last year. Unlike many of the programs available at launch that seemed to work just fine on smaller iPhones and iPod touch devices, Netflix made the most of the iPad's large screen to display rich video.
The app -- and perhaps even the iPad itself -- wouldn't have had such a strong launch if it wasn't available at no additional cost for existing Netflix subscribers.
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG )
YouTube's parent may benefit initially from the dearth of Netflix streaming. Instead of Netflix being the prime bandwidth sipper during peak Internet usage hours, folks will just spend more time on YouTube.
Google makes the loser list, though, because of Google TV.
Big G stumbled during last year's launch, largely because it failed to get television studios on board. The one thing it did get right is making sure that Netflix streaming was a prominent application. How valuable will that be when Netflix likely loses millions of streaming accounts in two months?
Sony (NYSE: SNE )
Sony wasn't the only consumer electronics component maker to fall for the Netflix button earlier this year. It joins Toshiba, Samsung, and Panasonic (NYSE: PC ) in adding prominent "Netflix" buttons to the remotes of their Blu-ray players, Web-tethered TVs, and set-top boxes. This doesn't seem like such a good move now that streaming is a premium on top of a premium DVD rental service.
Sony is in bed with Netflix another way. PlayStation 3 owners can stream Netflix right through their Sony video game consoles. Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Xbox 360 had Netflix exclusivity initially, but all three consoles now let couch potatoes surf through Netflix's digital vault with their console controllers. PS3 is the only console of the three to also play Blu-ray discs, making it the console of choice for video buffs. It may not seem as relevant if Netflix streaming begins to fade in popularity now as an upcharge item.
TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO )
The patent-rich DVR pioneer was an early adopter in home theater integration with Netflix. The two agreed to team up in 2008, long before many other component makers saw the light of Web-based streaming through TVs.
Even now, three years later, many non-TiVo DVRs have no way to stream Netflix.
Some will argue that it's not much of a differentiator. TiVo has been hemorrhaging subscribers for years, and its future rests primarily on its ability to milk its patents. Either way, the potential for popularity of streaming on Netflix to wane won't make TiVo boxes move any faster.
The market wasn't sure what to make of Netflix's move. The stock spiked originally on the news, but then it began to give back most of its peak gains.
Unlike the favorable reaction to Netflix's price hike in January, there's been an uproar over what translates into a dramatic increase for those who will want to stream and spin discs.
There's a lot riding on this, primarily the company's streaming model. For the first time in a long time, it's easy to fathom subscriber growth slowing if not outright retreating. This could be a $500 stock in a year if Netflix's move is well-received or fall back to $100 if it's exposed.
The end result is that Netflix will now be accountable for the depth of its streaming catalog, something that wasn't worth complaining about when it was simply added to DVD plans as a bonus.
Netflix is trying to fix what seemingly wasn't broken, so here it rests on the list of companies with more to lose than gain with this move.
What will you be doing about your Netflix subscription? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.