For the third week in a row, an analyst is juicing up price targets for Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). UBS analyst Doug Mitchelson jacked up his price goal on the leading premium video service on Tuesday, going from $116 to $143.
Mitchelson's move follows Raymond James boosting its price target from $120 to $140 last week. A week earlier, it was two Wall Street pros -- Stifel Nicolaus and Topeka Capital Markets -- pushing their marks higher.
This has been happening a lot at Netflix this year. The stock has more than doubled in 2015, forcing bulls to either change their ratings, or jack up their price targets.
Every analyst seems to offer a new reason to wax optimistic, while aiming higher. One nugget in Mitchelson's revised model is that he sees revenue per subscriber moving higher in the future as Netflix grows beyond subscription fees. He sees upside in the potential of bundling or promoting third-party services.
Raising the roof
We know that Netflix has the pricing elasticity to increase its monthly subscription rate. Netflix went from $7.99 a month to $8.99 a month 15 months ago. It grandfathered in existing subscribers at the old rate through May of next year, but the real fear here was that it wouldn't be able to attract new members at the higher price point.
Netflix went on to obliterate those concerns. It has grown its global subscriber base by 15.5 million, to reach 65.55 million streaming accounts worldwide during the past year. Older members were going to stick around. They're getting a price break. However, the inflow of new streaming couch potatoes aren't flinching at $8.99 a month.
CEO Reed Hastings was asked about Netflix's elasticity during last month's quarterly call. He didn't shy away from suggesting that customers will pay more in the future, but it will come at a gradual and calculated pace.
"We want to take it very slow," he said. "Things are going well. There's no reason to be disruptive."
However, it's not a matter of seeing how many years it will take before $9.99 becomes the new $8.99. There will be other opportunities along the way. As Netflix's Rolodex of customers grows, so will the opportunities to cash in through other offerings.
Mitchelson talks about bundling and promoting other services, but we have to keep in mind that this is the same Netflix that has refused to slap ads on its streams, and even once retreated from excessive marketing on its mailers. It can happen -- and probably will -- but probably more in the form of teaming up with TV manufacturers or cable TV providers to grow its own audience.
A clearer path to monetization, and one that Netflix has steadfastly avoided, is to offer digital rentals of the movies that are not in its growing catalog of streaming content. Cable providers have piecemeal on-demand rentals. Amazon Prime Instant has no problem selling you and renting you digital copies of movies and TV shows. If it catches on -- or if the dot-com retailer begins to somehow gain ground on Netflix because it's a more full-featured streaming video platform -- Netflix will quickly catch on.
The opportunities to milk more revenue out of its growing audience will come. Netflix can afford to take its time. Now it's up to shareholders to be equally patient.