Sometimes calling something a mistake is a mistake. The market wasn't pleased with Zillow Group (Z 2.18%) (ZG 1.96%) when it decided it was done flipping homes. Qwikster became a national punchline after Netflix (NFLX 2.39%) announced it would separate its streaming platform from its flagship DVD rental business.
The initial narrative was that Zillow and Netflix were wrong when they made these surprising strategic changes. It was the boo birds who got it wrong in the end. Let's take a closer look.
1. Zillow made an Offers it can refuse
The operator of several popular real estate portals figured it had a good idea in the springtime of 2017 when it got into the house-flipping business. It would team up with its Premier Agents to asses the value of a property, snap it up, and try to sell it at a higher price after making a few updates.
Investors were excited about the big-ticket revenue that the Zillow Offers platform was generating, but the stock plummeted 25% on Nov. 3 of last year after the company announced it would wind down its portfolio of homes available for sale. Investors felt that throwing in the towel in the middle of a housing boom was a bad call despite the segment's steep operating losses.
It turned out to be a pretty brilliant decision. Less than a year later, we're seeing the housing market bubble pop in many markets that were once scintillating. A spike in mortgage rates and a glut of supply have nipped the boom. Zillow stock has fallen 55% since the move. That's not good, but it would've probably been worse if it were still a leading player in the iBuyer market. Specialist Opendoor (OPEN 1.97%) has surrendered a whopping 84% of its value. Redfin (RDFN 4.53%) is down a mind-boggling 87%. Nobody said that real estate investing was going to be easy.
2. Netflix plays the Qwikster card
Netflix has a knack for being so ahead of its time that a lot of people still think Qwikster was a fiasco. We have to go back to the summer of 2011, when the leading video service announced it was going to separate its original disc-mailing rental service from the newer streaming platform it offered its users for just $2 more a month but that it was also selling as a stand-alone digital offering. Qwikster was born. It was put to rest just three weeks later.
Mr. Market wasn't impressed by Qwikster's birth announcement. The stock took a 7% hit the day Netflix revealed its plan, followed by a 10% drop the next day. We know Netflix would go on to survive the ridicule. Even after the sharp correction in growth stocks, including Netflix, over the past year, this company has still been a market-thumping 11-bagger since it introduced Qwikster. Its global subscriber base has also expanded more than tenfold.
Qwikster the brand may have suffered an embarrassing death, but the strategy was still eventually carried out. Disc-based rentals were pushed off to the less quirky DVD.com domain, and they're now a negligible part of the business model that is rarely discussed in quarterly updates. Netflix is also embracing the push into video gaming that it intended to be part of the Qwikster rollout. In short, it would go on to set its digital platform apart from its old-school business without the quirky spinoff name, and it's now the revenue king of streaming media stocks.