For the first time in a while, James Bond -- specifically, 1963's From Russia With Love -- figured into my weekend entertainment. I have Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) to thank for it.
Bond is everywhere these days. Vanity Fair used its cover to celebrate the fictional secret agent's 50 years in cinema. British actor Daniel Craig recently hosted Saturday Night Live. And, of course, the Web is abuzz with previews of the newest entry in the series, Skyfall, which debuts in theaters on Nov. 9:
Amid the hype, studio owner MGM briefly put a lid on rentals of Bond films in hopes that enthusiasts might pay up for a Blu-ray collection of the 22-film series in the same way that Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) has made a mint on Blu-ray sales of the summer blockbuster The Avengers.
Today, whatever limit there was has disappeared. Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) and Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTunes Store are now offering a full menu of Bond's adventures for rent. Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Play store is offering two of Timothy Dalton's adventures as 007, while Hulu has... nothing. Netflix's top streaming competitor was only offering trailers and classic Bond clips as of this writing, thanks mostly to its partnership with MovieClips.com.
And that's important. Aside from outright theft or paying up to rent or buy, Netflix remains streamers' only alternative for getting a Bond fix. In addition to the aforementioned From Russia With Love, Sean Connery's second film as 007, the site is showing:
- 1969's On Her Majesty's Secret Service, starring George Lazenby.
- 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, starring Connery.
- 1974's The Man With the Golden Gun, starring Roger Moore.
- 1979's Moonraker, starring Moore.
- 1983's Never Say Never Again, starring Connery.
- 1987's The Living Daylights, starring Dalton.
Obviously, MGM is hoping for more one-off rentals and purchases of the older Bond films. Every click would amount to a near 100% margin since production costs would have been amortized years ago. In handing a good-sized portion of its Bond catalog to Netflix, the studio is also acknowledging the benefits of having its films available for serendipitous discovery.
For my own part, watching From Russia With Love reminds me that I've never seen Dr. No, which I'm planning to rent from iTunes the next time it's convenient to do so. That's why investors should still like this stock: Netflix drives revenue for Hollywood just as much as Hollywood drives revenue for Netflix.
Regardless, headlines continue to scream about alternatives such as Amazon's Prime and Redbox's new streaming efforts. Recently an analyst downgraded the stock after another raised his price target to $120 a share. Who's right? To answer this question, one of our own star analysts has developed a premium report on whether Netflix is a buy right now, and why. Click here to get your copy instantly.