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Say it isn't so, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) . Tell me this affordable, convenient product of yours isn't going to become an expense that people have to think twice about every month.
The details of Netflix's price increase have been widely discussed across the Web. The $8 streaming-only product and $8 DVD-only option represent a 60% price increase for those who want to keep both options. While the stock market is cheering the move, I think it's too far too fast for Netflix, an idea that customers seem to agree with.
Giving customers a choice
The new pricing model will split customers into two camps. Some will choose their favorite distribution method, either streaming or DVDs, and some will choose both. I don't see either as a good option for Netflix. The streaming-only option doesn't change, but those who choose DVDs are going to pay less than they did before and probably won't miss streaming content at all.
Worse, for those who like both streaming and DVDs, Netflix is raising the price 60%. Not a dollar or two, but a whopping $6 a month, something no customer can be happy about. It may be worth the money for heavy users, but for customers who viewed Netflix as a perk, this goes from being a great value to a substantial expense every month. And there may be more of those customers than Netflix was anticipating.
As I am writing, there are 58,500 comments on Facebook in response to Netflix's announcement. Take a look for yourself and you'll see that they're decidedly negative. In an article yesterday, fellow Fool Anders Bylund asked readers if Netflix was shooting itself in the foot: 69% said yes.
The biggest change is that Netflix has gone from a value that's too good to pass up to one that at least makes people think twice. At most, the DVD-only plan delivers eight DVDs a month, which would be the same cost as Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR ) Redbox. And personally, streaming content still isn't compelling enough for me to consider paying for that alone.
Becoming the enemy
I'm wondering if this is a move toward Netflix becoming the next-generation cable company. The streaming business model is starting to resemble Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) and Time Warner Cable's (NYSE: TWC ) cable model, and that's a path Netflix may have to go down with tiered pricing. But these companies aren't usually favorites in people's lives, and Netflix is used to getting nothing but love.
The streaming cost is what may push Netflix to new pricing options as it adds content. Right now, the company can pay a fixed cost for content and leverage the current fast rate of subscriber growth to turn a profit. If people are indeed outraged and drop Netflix before the price increase, that would put a lot of pressure on the company.
As Netflix absorbs this PR blow, Hulu executives have to be grinning ear-to-ear as they consider what to do with the company. Unlike cable, the cord to Netflix is easy to cut, and customers may be willing to give Hulu a shot at winning their hearts. That could mean an added premium when Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , Comcast, and News Corp. (Nasdaq: NWS ) eventually sell the company.
You're not THAT important
I think Netflix is over-valuing its importance and value in people's lives.
I canceled my Netflix subscription a few months ago because I didn't see $9.99 as a great value after I got through the movies I wanted to see. DVDs were nice, but if I didn't watch them the day they arrived, I could only get through five or six a month, and streaming content was disappointing, to say the least. Right now, as much as I dislike XFINITY from Comcast, I would probably pay for that before Netflix, and Hulu isn't far behind.
My Foolish bottom line
Fellow Fools and our Stock Advisor team, which has been wildly successful with its Netflix pick, may disagree with my opinion on Netflix. But that diverse range of views is what The Motley Fool is all about. I would suggest investors take some, if not all, of their shares off the table after the recent price increase, because I think there will be a bigger-than-expected backlash.
Who is right? Netflix bulls have been leading the charge for a long time and we'll find out if that will continue in a few months, when third-quarter results are released. I made a bearish call on my CAPS page, and right now I like my chances.
Would you buy, sell, or hold Netflix considering the price increase? Leave your thoughts in our comments section below.