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Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman!

By Robert Eberhard – Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 7:13PM

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Problems at the U.S. Postal Service could hurt Netflix's home delivery service.

Its ubiquitous red mailers come to your home every couple of days, delivered reliably whether there is snow or rain or heat or gloom of night. It is both a noun and a verb, and has entered everyday life as a provider of entertainment. Millions of Americans keep an eye on their queue, waiting to see which movie may arrive next at their door.

However, all may not be well for Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), as it may lose an integral part of its business, perhaps as early as next year. Without government intervention, the U.S. Postal Service faces default by the end of September and complete shutdown by next summer. Without the Postal Service, Netflix would need to find a new way to deliver content to subscribers.

Getting discs in your hands
Theoretically, Netflix has other options for home delivery. Package delivery companies United Parcel Service (NYSE: UPS) and FedEx (NYSE: FDX) deliver all over the country, though not nearly at the same volume as the USPS. However, both companies would have to make major changes to meet the added demand of delivering smaller packages to more households, as well as offer a competitive price. Furthermore, unless UPS or FedEx could gain access to secure mail boxes, leaving discs unsecured at doors across the country might not be in Netflix's best interest.

Other content delivery options
Luckily, Netflix is not all about delivery of DVDs by mail. It streams a lot of content through various devices right into homes. In fact, with recent price increases, it is projecting that 88% of its current customers will pay only for streaming, with the remainder opting for disc-based plans. These 3 million customers might look for other options if the postman stops swinging by.

Others options abound
Netflix's competitors are poised to step in if something should happen with its home delivery. Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR) RedBox kiosks could see a bit more business, as could NCR's (NYSE: NCR) Blockbuster Express kiosks. As for streaming content, Dish Network's (Nasdaq: DISH) Blockbuster could offer an alternative to Netflix's streaming as early as next month. Retail giant (Nasdaq: AMZN) offers streaming of more than 8,000 digital titles free for Amazon Prime members.

Pay-per-play could also siphon some customers away from Netflix. Apple offers rentals of movies through its iTunes store. Cable television providers have video-on-demand services, often with newer options that can't be found on Netflix until long after the release, and often include a back catalog of various movies for free or at low cost.

What to keep an eye on
The White House is a few weeks away from releasing its plan to save the USPS, and the end of the USPS would not be the end of Netflix. However, this is still an issue that bears watching. Netflix made its business on delivering movies to your door, and has successfully transitioned to a company that provides them electronically. We'll know more in a few months when Netflix releases quarterly results showing a breakout of streaming versus mail-only customers. Keep track of all the Netflix developments by adding the stock to My Watchlist.

Fool contributor Robert Eberhard recently downgraded his Netflix service to one Blu-ray at a time, but does not own shares in any companies mentioned here. Please follow him on Twitter @GuruEbby. The Motley Fool owns shares of FedEx, Apple, and United Parcel Service. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple, FedEx,, and Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying puts in Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. 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.

Stocks Mentioned

Netflix Stock Quote
$316.95 (3.74%) $11.42 Stock Quote
$95.50 (-1.08%) $-1.04
United Parcel Service Stock Quote
United Parcel Service
$190.19 (0.24%) $0.46
FedEx Stock Quote
$180.45 (-0.97%) $-1.77
Outerwall Inc. Stock Quote
Outerwall Inc.
DISH Network Stock Quote
DISH Network
$15.59 (-2.87%) $0.46
NCR Stock Quote
$23.77 (-0.42%) $0.10

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