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Between last night's letter to shareholders detailing its latest financials and the subsequent conference call, Netflix had plenty to say about its performance, the competitive landscape, and where it's going in the future.
Let's dive into some of the video service giant's more intriguing revelations.
Here comes Amazon
"We expect Amazon to continue to offer their video service as a free extra with Prime domestically but also to brand their video subscription offering as a stand-alone service at a price less than ours."
A New York Post article earlier this week indicated that Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) will begin charging for the unlimited video service that it currently offers millions of its Amazon Prime members at no additional cost.
Netflix's comments naturally confirm that it is also hearing the same speculation. However, Netflix's comments go further than that. The indication here is that Amazon will continue to keep offering folks paying $79 a year for free two-day shipping and monthly Kindle e-book rentals the unlimited streams from a growing catalog that they have enjoyed since last February. The premium service will be a separate offering.
Netflix will need to be careful here because Amazon will radically undercut Netflix on price. At $79 a year for Prime, we're talking $6.58 a month. Obviously, the stand-alone streams will cost far less since they don't include the free shipping and e-book rentals.
This will be interesting. Amazon can probably charge $3 or $4 a month for this -- half of what Netflix charges -- for its admittedly inferior catalog. However, Amazon would be doing this to get folks to connect their living rooms to Amazon, giving the leading online retailer the opportunity to be their top choice in buying premium new releases a la carte that are -- currently -- not available through Netflix digitally.
Re-run TV is a badge of honor
"Catch-up TV is really a good model for authentication. ... We're comfortable with that partitioning because we feel like our segment is very broad and big at a low price point of $7.99. And so that's why we're partitioning ourselves to be prior season. We're not bidding on any current season, and we don't have any current season."
Netflix takes a fair deal of ribbing from Hulu fans because it doesn't offer current television episodes. Netflix explains that this prevents it from being perceived as a threat by the cable networks and service providers that would view Netflix as a cord-cutting threat if it offered fresh content. By striking licensing deals for earlier seasons exclusively, Netflix should be viewed by the TV studios as either an educator or a gateway drug.
Couch potatoes may not like having to wait as long as a year to see a new season through Netflix, but it's what the company has to do -- strategically and financially -- if it wants to have those shows at all.
"We have no plans to enter video games."
Now that Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR ) Redbox kiosks are spitting out video games -- and DISH Network's (Nasdaq: DISH ) Blockbuster is offering games either in-store or through the mail -- Netflix is the only major distributor of movie rentals on optical disc that isn't offering games.
It's going to stay that way. Netflix may have promised video games during September's Qwikster push, but that initiative apparently had a shelf life similar to Qwikster's.
You've got disc
"We expect DVD subscribers to decline steadily every quarter forever."
Netflix shed a whopping 2.8 million net DVD subscribers during the fourth quarter, even though streaming members and overall unique accounts inched higher. Netflix is targeting 1.5 million net defections on the disc end during this current quarter, breaking Netflix below the 10 million subscriber mark.
This is starting to seem a lot like AOL's (NYSE: AOL ) once-flagship America Online business, and not just because both businesses involved pushing discs into your mailbox with feverish velocity in their prime. AOL views its access business as a cash cow that will fade in perpetuity to the point where it's no longer aggressively marketed. It's a dying business that it can use to help grow its online endeavors. Netflix's DVD business is contributing the lion's share of the company's operating profit, though Netflix points out that every incremental streaming customer is more lucrative than every incremental DVD or Blu-ray subscriber.
Netflix isn't actively marketing the DVD business, but it will continue to keep running it effectively and restocking it with fresh releases.
The bottom line is that Netflix is all about living up to its name of net and flicks. There are now more than twice as many streaming customers as there are DVD accounts, and that gap will widen with every passing quarter.
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