Two small words on Netflix's (Nasdaq: NFLX) iconic website should have investors buzzing. was the first to unearth a modest "Buy now" link on its page for Little Fockers. The poorly reviewed comedy hit retailers earlier this month but won't be available through Netflix until May 3.

Is Netflix about to begin selling optical discs -- or, better yet, premium streams -- through its website? Dream on. The link simply leads to NBC Universal's official website for the flick.

I hate to get the hopes up of slumped-over couch potatoes, but this is probably a one-off deal. Some of the recent Redbox mailers included a Little Fockers ad, and this was likely part of the advertising package. I wouldn't be surprised to see the "Buy now" link obliterated once the 28-day release window lapses and the film is available as a rental to Netflix and Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR) Redbox customers.

After all, did Netflix even see the site that the link is promoting?

I'm not just talking about the "Own it now ... 28 days before Netflix & Redbox" taunt that's been blogged about elsewhere. The official site's landing page also points to special offers from four retailers.

It's a gateway tug
It's no big deal, right? The movie isn't even rentable on Netflix, so why not promote the ability to buy it elsewhere -- especially if Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) majority-owned NBC Universal is either footing the marketing tab or providing it sweet inventory terms come next month.

Well, let's dig into these offers.

  • Target (NYSE: TGT) is the harmless merchant of the lot. $24.99 gets you the Blu-ray combo pack that comes with the DVD and digital copy. A magnetic photo frame with quote bubbles from the movie is also included as a Target exclusive. The impact of that digital copy is minimal on Netflix.
  • Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) is a rip-off at $19.99 for the DVD or $29.99 for the Blu-ray combo pack, but it also comes with a $5 CinemaNow giftcard. Gee, Netflix is linking to a site that is encouraging kicking the tires of Best Buy's a la carte streaming service. I can't be the only one who has a problem with that.
  • (Nasdaq: AMZN) links to the Blu-ray combo pack for $10 less than Best Buy and $5 less than Target. As a bonus, buyers get instant access to the digital rental for free with the purchase.
  • iTunes is the final merchant, where it's obviously being offered as a digital purchase -- at $14.99 with extra features.

Is this what Netflix wants? It has resisted the urge to play the retail card, just as it has refused to follow Blockbuster into game rentals. It wants to focus on being a fixed-price celluloid smorgasbord.

Netflix has shrugged off attempts to cash in on the retail side. It stopped selling used DVDs for as little as $5.99 to its subscribers three years ago, but now the stakes are more model-altering in this digital-savvy marketplace.

Netflix is leaving money on the table by not offering premium rentals of the tens of thousands of flicks that won't be available through its streaming library for years -- if ever. CEO Reed Hastings won't even entertain the thought of offering subscribers the option to pay a few bucks for a digital rental during the 28-day window, arming the competition with easy ammo for availability attack ads.

This is no laughing matter, Focker
It takes some serious nerve to tell Netflix what to do. Anyone that has publicly called Hastings out for something that he isn't doing or shorted shares in his company has been proven wrong.

That won't stop me from pointing out the gaping hole in Netflix.

I can see why Netflix doesn't want to get too chummy with the competition. If it ever struck a deal where it would collect juicy commissions for sending folks to CinemaNow or iTunes for piecemeal rentals that it doesn't stock digitally or even on optical disc (during the studio window), it would be validating a rival platform. However, clearly the company has the ability to roll out a homegrown solution.

If Netflix doesn't connect the dots, somebody else will.

You can be sure that when Redbox finally gets around to unveiling its digital strategy that it will find a way to include premium rentals. It has already gone public with the shortcomings of the 28-day release freeze. Amazon's move to offer Prime members a Netflix-esque streaming service at no additional cost is already paired up with its ability to serve newer flicks on demand.

Netflix has more than 20 million households under its watch because it has always stayed ahead of the competition.

They're catching up, and a "Buy now" button that doesn't go far enough is making it easier.

Should Netflix be selling premium rentals? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.