There's a fine line between having a symbiotic relationship with customers or suppliers and just downright competing with them. In some businesses, the line can be blurry and two cases caught my eye over the past week.
Netflix searches for content
After a banner year in 2010 for longtime Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick Netflix
Netflix relied on its streaming business to fuel growth over the last few years as a number of devices made it convenient to catch a movie on-demand at a low monthly cost. But now that the cat's out of the bag, content providers will want more in return for their shows. So what does Netflix do to get the upper hand from content providers? It seems logical to ... get into the content business? Really?
Fellow Fools may be cheering the deal for House of Cards, but I see this as a dangerous move for Netflix. Not because it will be a bad business deal by itself, but because it sets the tone for the future of Netflix. Now content providers will look at Netflix not only as a distribution channel but also as a competitor for content production.
And then there's the question of ties between content and distribution. Comcast has already brought regulatory ire by getting into not only distribution but content creation with its NBC deal. I'm not suggesting Netflix poses a regulatory issue, but content competitors didn't like the Comcast-NBC deal, and Netflix getting into content probably won't make it more popular with networks.
Do you really love your bank?
Banks may be heading down the same path of angering the wrong people by doing away with free checking and increasing other fees. This is in response to new banking regulations that have cut profits elsewhere, but I wonder how alienated customers will react to the new fees. Deposits are still a major source of funding for banks, and if customers decide having a checking account is just too costly, this could drain not only funds but more importantly a reliable source of customers.
After all, aren't we more likely to go with a lender that also holds our savings and checking accounts? Maybe I'm in a minority, but for me, the easier the better -- and dealing with multiple banks is not on the top of my priority list. But if it saves me $10 a month, I would make a change or probably drop my checking account altogether (11 checks in three years hardly seems worth it).
Foolish bottom line
Any dog knows it isn't a good idea to bite the hand that feeds you, and time will tell if that's exactly what these companies are doing. Like it or not, Netflix needs content providers to keep customers happy, and banks need customers who take out loans and overdraft their checking accounts.
I may be a little early throwing up the caution flag, but investors should keep an eye out for how suppliers and customers respond. Or we'll be the ones going hungry at the end of the day.
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Fool contributor Travis Hoium does not have a position in any company mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw.
Amazon.com, Walt Disney, and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, and through a separate account in its Rising Star Portfolios, the Fool also has a short position on Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.