Netflix: Hell Has No Fury Like Subscribers Scorned

EconMatters's picture




Shares of Netflix (NFLX) plummeted almost 35% to $77.37 in one day on Tue. Oct. 25 after reporting losing 800,000 U.S. subscribers in the third quarter, and predicting an unprofitable 2012 mostly due to its aggressive international expansion plan.  The magnitude of the share price drop caught option traders off guard even though the options market had priced in a 15% swing in either direction.


The company has been on a downward spiral unable to contain subscriber revolt in the past 3 months triggered by its customer infuriating 60% prices increase and splitting its DVD rental into a separate company called Kwikster.  The end result?  Hell has no fury like a Netflix customer scorned.....en masse.



Chart Source:, Oct. 25, 2011



The abrupt cancellation of the Kwikster spinoff on Oct. 10 turned out to be too little too late.  The company has lost $11 billion in market cap, and is now worth only 25% of what it was on July 13 when the stock was flying high at $298.73.  The chart below shows a reversal of fortune between the year-to-date stock performance of Netflix and Netflix competitor - Amazon (AMZN).  (Amazon's shares are also under pressure mostly due to its digital price war with Apple, but we don't see Amazon drop 75% in three months either.)



Chart Source: Yahoo Finance, Oct. 25, 2011



Netflix's abandonment issue is not just limited subscribers and investors.  According to Businessweek, at least five analysts downgraded Netflix on Tuesday, "citing lost management credibility and a dwindling subscriber base amid strong competition."  (EconMatters already downgraded Netflix as early as Nov. 2010, and again in January 2011, and October 2011)


This is a classic case of strategy execution blunders which could be detrimental to a company that has no differentiable products like Apple (AAPL) and Samsung, albeit with a mediocre business model, and has to rely on service quality and reputation.


Another sign of the over-confidence of Netflix management -- The company, reportedly has been spending its cash on repurchasing shares at extreme values above $200, instead of preserving capital for rainy days.   Now the massive loss of subscribers has put Netflix cashflow under pressure, and may have become a source of concerns with at least one Netflix content partner as WSJ reported that

"DreamWorks Animation SKG CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said in an interview Tuesday that he is "unequivocally" confident that Netflix will continue being able to keep paying for movies and television shows at its current rates." 

It is not a good sign when a business partner has to tell reporters that he is confident about your ability to pay (so that his company stocks (DWA) won't get dragged down as well).  DreamWorks Animation recently struck an exclusive deal with Netflix worth about $30 million a picture replacing DreamWorks current deal with HBO, which expires in 2013. .


With its reputation and creditability threshed in just three months, there could already be conversations at the board of directors level regarding Reed Hastings staying on as the CEO, as Busienssweek reported,

"....Reed Hastings, responding to questions, said he has no plans to step down and declined to comment on discussions with Netflix directors."  

Its U.S. subscriber base was the ace in the hole for Netflix in getting deals from movie studios and to finance its international expansion. Now Businessweek quoted  Netflix projecting to add only up to 52,000 domestic streaming customers over the holiday period, while losing as many as 3.63 million high-margin DVD subscribers,


So ironically, Netflix may need to do some heavy marketing to earn back riled subscribers, which may involve hefty price cuts and incentives.  In any case, most indicators point to a suffering of near term profitability, and a long and lonely road back to the past glory.


For now, it seems most of the market bulls have leaned the lesson on Netlfix as WSJ notes,

".... Weekly put options to sell [Netflix] shares for prices like $70 also were active. Roughly 172,000 Netflix put options traded, versus roughly 177,000 calls."

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DrunkenMonkey's picture

Wow, do people still pay for movies and music ?

Does the word 'torrent' not exist in american english or have the FBI blocked US access to the many sites at which one can obtain them for nothing ?

CWulf's picture

NFLX will have to dig very deep to regain subscriber trust.  When asked why their monthly charge had gone from $8 to $17, NFLX CSR replied "We sent you an email..."  So NFLX management assumed that subscribers would opt for a doubling of monthy fees over cutting service to preserve their monthly entertainment budget allowance.  That was a huge gaffe on their part, and, in the face of AmazonPrime/KindleFire (even Blockbuster-back-from-the-dead) competition, a short term (longterm?) insurmountable obstacle to resetting growth for this has-been competitor.

Uncle Remus's picture

I pulled the plug on the streaming Netflix this week myself. I can ususally find something to stream on Amazon Prime for about the same monthly cost and so far a better content selection than Netflixes streaming only offering. And Amazon's HD actually works for me, whereas Netflix HD never did.

The latest and greatest still costs more of course.

Obnoxio's picture

I think Netflix is a well managed profitable company. In my opinion the movie content companies would be better off working with Netflix with their content instead of inviting in the wolves like Amazon, Apple and Google. It may be a good buying opportunity at $75/share. Netflix is certainly better than Groupon and other bad cash flow companies.

LouisDega's picture

I subscribed to NFLX for a total of 15 days. I subscribed to the streaming option. I didnt have a problem until i chose the movie slingblade on streaming. 20 minutes into the movie, The closing credits popped up.. What the fuck was that all about? This is a two hour movie. Im just sayin'

Uncle Remus's picture

You gotta watch where you put that mouse cursor....

pupton's picture

Does anyone here use something called "REDBOX"?  I see one at the 7-11 near my house.  People are lining up at the thing to rent movies (I think that's what it is).  How do you like Red box, and can they be a better deal than Netflix for occassional movie renters (1 every other month, maybe)

Bansters-in-my- feces's picture


Does no one proof read this shit...???

Spelling lessons would be an asset for the articles writer.

Words missed in most articles,and spelling errors in all articles,even in articles headlines.

Like the SLIVER article.

NotApplicable's picture

Protip: When one makes accusations of another's poor use of grammar, one should proof-read it first. Otherwise, all of those glaring errors might detract from the message. ;-)

Uncle Remus's picture

Grammar?! We don' need no steenkin' grammar.

Bansters-in-my- feces's picture


I see by the add on my page,that "theTyler" is get bernanke bucks firom Netflix.

MrBoompi's picture

Netflix was never worth $298/share, regardless if there were plenty of suckers out there willing to pay that much.



boiltherich's picture

The DOW was never worth 10,000 but that does not stop them from paying that much for equities!

DosZap's picture

This is commonly referred to as SCREWING THE POOCH.

A HUGE EGO is a terrible thing to have.


TheClub55's picture

Everyone seems to be missing the ISPs on the comment board today... the Netflix or any streaming model is based on another companies delivery investment, streaming customers use something like 95% more bandwidth than non-streamers.  So the Netflix business is partly based on bribing (aka lobbing) government to keep "net neutrality".  I am sure non-streaming ISP customers would rather pay $10 per month for a modest plan 5 gb of data than a streamer w/ 200 gb of data per month. 

That said, I use the hell out of streaming netfix... mainly for the kids, the movie and show selection is good enough to keep them entertained.  But, I will switch in a new york minute if the ISPs want to double my internet fees... or if amazon prime can add a wii interface.  Next, the ISPs re just going to launch better version of their own services and slow down the Netflix connection (followed by an epic court battle), but it could damage the company down to a pink sheet stock.

Bottom line, Netflix is a fairly simple business model in the internet age and will be commoditized more and more each day.

GolfHatesMe's picture

Reed has made more mental-midget moves in the last 3 months, looks like he is looking for a Czar appointment.  Perhaps a replacement for Holder.  Stupid is - Stupid does.

PulauHantu29's picture

This CEO had his head where the sun don't shine.

Everyone I talked to said they should have expanded the online inventory.....but no...the CEO knows it all and destroys the company overnight with an obviously idiotic scheme.

Hey, and guess what?...he blames it on Occupy Wall Street and the Tea party...LMAO!!!!

If the Board doesn't replace him ASAP they are blind too. Of course, they get their quarterly check either way so No Worries, Mon.


I Got Worms's picture

I know Netflix is the whipping boy of ZH, but I don't own a single share of it (or any other stock for that matter) so I get that it's funny to watch it get pummelled like it did after so many "experts" touted it, because this whole market is such a farce. That said, I fucking love Netflix, even at 18$ a month. It's got about every documentary I could ever care to watch on stream, I've marathoned Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, and Sons of Anarchy on stream over the last few months, and I have "Bad Teacher" arriving tonight. Doubling the price on a product overnight will always cause a shitstorm with customers, but at 18$ I, personnally, still think it's a good deal and have decided to keep my membership. Besides, where the fuck am I going to go, Blockbuster?

SamuelMaverick's picture

Funny and sad little note re netflix's implosion.. I tried to renew my netflix subscription about 4 months ago and I was not allowed to renew the dvd / streaming combo plan. When I asked customer service what the hell was going on, she told me they were trying to get their customers to focus on the streaming , and get out of the dvd part of their business. This conversation happened before it was made public or made it into the news. Besides being ripping pissed that i could not renew my subscription for the whole year ( I pay the year in advance with a gift card made out to myself), I started wondering what kind of shit management Netflix has if they do not even understand their own business and understand what aspects of the business that their customers value, mainly being the dvd by mail where you can get new and up to date movies without going to a store, and their streaming service where you can get out of date, older, b movies, and some tv shows. We liked the streaming only for the kiddy tv shows for our 6, 4, and 2 year olds. And the price was right.   When those idiots finally announced their grand plan of offering two services and jacking thier prices by 60%, I went and got their financials and figured out what their value per share was, and guesstimated what would happen if they lost 1 or 2 million customers and had some of their institutional investors dump their holdings enmasse.  I called my brother up and let him know what I thought, that Netfix was going to implode in the next few months and if he felt like doing a little gambling, he should buy some Netflix puts at 80 - 85. This was when Nflx was at $131.  Me, well I am concentrating on Pm's and Miner's and did not have the free cash to make the move.  No shit, the 85 puts I placed in my watchlist just hit for a 560% gain yesterday.  Great, just great, and my brother did not buy the puts either.

Totin's picture

Funny, when I was about to cancel I found out that Netflix had a DVD only option "One out at a time" that was actually cheaper than what I was paying - I switched to that and saved a couple of bucks a month. Works perfect for me. I can watch a movie on Saturday and Wednesday so I'm getting 8 movies a month for like $10.00

lbrecken's picture

And another thing $240M in Net Income got reduced post the EPS call and the lossed for Intl were already telegraphed and anticipated by street to some extent so to say most of the adjustment to 2012 EPS was Intl is a complete farse.  This mgt knew the amortization bubble was coming and sell side guys were warned many many times by myself the math did not add up and the CF confirmed eventually the EPS would have to catch up to lack of growth there.  The lack of true work on the Street and media is astonashing.........'s picture

American consumers are the worst kind of customer. Whiny and spoiled rotten. Adding a few bucks membership fees is nothing compared to paying $3 each time your returned a Blockbuster disk late, or a VHS tape not rewound. I am guessing all of the subscribers who left the service are now renting from the red ghetto boxes available exclusively in your neigborhood WalMart? RedTube? Lol...

I Got Worms's picture

Agreed - see my post above.  I still think 18$ a month to stream unlimited and get one out at a time is a steal.'s picture

Indeed, it is a steal. Those whining about this and that need a reality check...which awaits them as soon as they drop the subscription.

lbrecken's picture

You need you head examined all of you...NFLX has $750M in A/P and $3.3B in off B/S obligations that is the core issue and where the acct gimmicks come from so wake start focusing on this cause in the end NFLX cant grow itself  TO ANY SIZE sub wise enough to pay this off....

myne's picture

Netflix was always going to die. The minute Google get a content agreement signed, Netflix will die. The content owners aren't stupid enough to sign eternal exclusivity agreements and Google will simply price it at or near zero, using ad revenue to prop it up. Instant global audience too. Some if not all of the new Androids are capable of DLNA or video out. Youtube will be the back end platform and it will deliver whatever resolution you'd prefer to whatever device you're using.

Of course, the antitrust case will be epic.

kaiserhoff's picture

Good analysis.  Only disagree about anti-trust.  Media is changing so fast, and the courts are still in the 19th century.  THE LAW is all but irrelevant.

NotApplicable's picture

That depends on how much cooperation fedgov gets from arm-twisting Google for user info.

MS never had a true monopoly either, but since they didn't play ball with the feds, they were subjected to a slap-around accompanied by a shake-down. Also, it's an election year, so "all options will be on the table."

boiltherich's picture

And there is a major problem with the whole Google/Yahoo business model of nearly free content supported by ads, the ads have become more numerous, more intrusive, and just plain crowding content off the screen in what appears to be a geometric progression to the point of being mostly ads with a sprinkling of content thrown in on occasion.  I don't know about you all but I am fast reaching my saturation point with being advertised at.  There are times when I seriously consider an ad free life, especially ads for bowel disorders cures and feminine hygiene products, why do they allow such disgusting ads at meal times?  And those 2 minute long medical commercials, allowing those was a large and expensive error driving up medical care costs and driving up the wall me, especially those sleazy het impotence drug commercials, EWWWW.  I can honestly say I have nearly never been motivated by advertizing to buy or use anything or patronize any merchant.  I have gone out of my way to avoid those whose ads I feel are annoying or insulting.

NEOSERF's picture

So analysts are so quick to jump on a company citing loss of confidence in management but still believe Obama and this Congress will keep this muddling economy from going off the rails?

bronzie's picture

The streaming movie selection at Netflix is quite limited

If you like watching Gene Autry movies from the 1950's then Netflix might be the content provider for you

If you like watching the mindless crap that passes for TV programming then Netflix might be the content provider for you

If you are looking for a way to watch GOOD streaming movies or to have GOOD DVDs delivered to your home, Netflix is probably NOT the content provider for you


I went from 3 DVDs at a time to 1 DVD at a time when they started increasing prices and I just cancelled my membership entirely - I got tired of paying a premium to sift through 14,000 crappy online movies trying to find a movie worth watching

Still looking for a replacement provider ...


Jay's picture

I quit Netflix not because I'm angry with Netflix. I'm furious with the movie industry in general. I watch BluRay movies on my computer and the movie industry doesn't want that so they keep sabotaging their content so it won't play on my computer. The last two out of three BluRay movies I rented wouldn't play and I figure that if the movie industry is so hellbent on screwing their honest, paying customers that I'll read books.

boiltherich's picture

That is Sony, it used to be such a fine company but is now right down in the muck with lawyers and politicians as far as I am concerned.  My PS3 quits working about every 6 months and I have to go to the Sony website and download their "updates" or the player will not work.  Once you go to all this hassle with flash drives and labeling files and folders and then redoing your PS3 settings options you find that all the update did was not allow you to use fast forward on trailers and such.  I will never update the firmware on my PS3 again and when it finally will not play anything off to Goodwill it goes.

I Got Worms's picture

I agree the new releases are limited (however, I did watch Tron: Legacy the other night on stream). But I stream the shit out of the documentaries and TV series. Since you read ZH, there are basically unlimited documentaries that ought to be right up your alley. Also have "Bad Teacher" arriving tonight to watch with the old lady, which I think just came out on DVD last week. So I think the whole package is worth the 18 clams. Definitley worth not having to stand in line with some mouth-breather, knuckle dragger with his 6 kids in a McDonalds parking lot to rent a video.'s picture

yes, true, but compare THE COST!

I am on $24 plan - 4 DVDs at a time. Each month I cycle through 20 CDs at least - that's $1.20 per CD, plus unlimited streaming. What the the alternatives? $3.50 per CD rental at Blockbuster?

boiltherich's picture

When Dish took over Blockbuster I cancelled my membership because they did not know what they were doing, they changed the rental terms to a daily rental for 2.99 (1.99 for older movies) with reintroduction of late fees, and for six weeks the place was in chaos with not one new movie release, they said they were renegotiating all contracts. 

I went back to Netflix which I had tried a few years ago, but I no sooner signed up for one DVD at a time when they spit out the streaming which I have no use for, and raised the price on the mailed DVDs, but also stopped allowing you to rent BluRay unless you paid a separate subscription for that in addition, and it was not like you could subscribe to BluRay only, to get BluRay you had to pay two separate subscriptions.  And then I remembered why I hated using Netflix, very limited new releases, and one day to mail to them plus one to two days to get the next movie.  I dumped them as fast as I dumped Blockbuster.

It did appear to me that the business model for movie rentals (movies in general) is busted and beyond repair, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video gone out of business, Netflix in the process of making cumbersome rental prohibitively expensive, Blockbuster sold for pennies on the dollar and closing venues all over the place while raising prices, there is one lone independent vid store in this county of almost 300,000 and they are good but expensive, $4.99 for two day rentals.  I recall thinking that the movie industry has to be behind this and it would be a good time to short anything in that business classification. 

And there were other problems indicative of either excessive greed or else great financial distress in the industry, more commercials and previews on the rentals, and lately commercials and previews you cannot fast forward through or skip over, you just get an error message saying that operation not currently available on this disc.  When Sony started placing 40 minutes worth of commercials (including about 10 for BluRay which is absurd because I rented a BluRay that I play on my BluRay player - I already have a player and rent those movies what the fuck do I have to be subjected to all those commercials for BluRay every film for?) that you cannot skip, I stopped renting BluRay, I wrote Sony and told them I have a 46" Bravia TV, Sony home theater system, and Sony PS3, I have bought thousands worth of their products and now they are just hell bent on pissing me off every time I rent a movie, of course they do not care one bit.  Last Sony item I ever buy certainly.  If I cannot control my own machines I will junk the lot of it and start over elsewhere, if all parties in the business force people to watch all those ads then I will quit watching movies entirely.  I have only gone to 10 movies in the theater in 25 years since they banned smoking and ended intermissions (and started charging $5.50 for a small popcorn).  I would go if they just had an intermission so one can grab a few puffs or go to the restroom, but I will not pay $7.50 to see a movie I have to walk out of in order to go take a leak.  Or, just play the F'ing movie at the start time listed on the marquee and not make you sit through more than a half hour of bullshit turning a 130 minute movie into a three hour ordeal.  At home I can hit the pause button and go pee or smoke or make a huge bag of popcorn for 70 cents, even go on a beer run. 

Well, Blockbuster seems to be back on track, they now have a $14 movie pass that allows you to watch as many movies in a month as you want (one at a time) with no late fees.  Part of the problem was that weekends you go in and the shelves are bare of anything remotely new, renters go in on Thursday and get weekend movies, but late fees were eating them up.  No more late fees on the pass.  I watch maybe 4 or 5 movies a week so it is not a bad deal.'s picture

Good writeup. I believe the digital streaming business model is also dead on arrival. There is no way to prevent piracy of digital content, in this day and age. All of this DRM, encryption hokus pokus is pure BS. I think studios are scared of this and are pulling back from online streaming. They may be right, as I do not see an online distribution vehicle out there which addresses some of the key monetization concerns...

PS. Don't get me started on those commercials. You can't skip them, and you can't jump to menu any more, you HAVE to watch? Such BS!

boiltherich's picture

Some you can and some you can't, the skip and fast forward button does still work for a few but try this, the DVD MENU button skips over some of them.  The only labels that I have found so far that you are forced to play all the trailers and commercials are from BluRay (Sony), most Disney productions, and recently Universal products are doing it too, they are off my list I don't rent from them any longer.

As to streaming content, my computer and cable modem are not connected to home theater/TV, they are in different rooms.  The only way I could view such content is on my little computer screen in my office. 

One of the problems with the concept of rentals is that a really good movie you really look forward to you go to the theater to see for the great sound and big screen.  95% or more of the movies available to rent you either had no interest in or already saw and do not want to pay anything to see again.  The only valid reason for renting is to see movies at a lower price that you find utility in at that lower price, and on occasion the odd movie you do like enough to review.  Example, I like Chris Evans but not enough to go see Captain America in the theater.  Yesterday it came out at Blockbuster so I got it and watched it last evening.  MAN am I glad I did not pay to see that movie in the theater!  If you like looking at Chris Evans it was a good movie, but plot?  Cinematography?  Acting and casting?  Pure turkey.  And the ending, wow it stank the place up.

The new kid on the block is kiosk dispensers.  Red Box, Blockbuster is trying them out, others too.  I tried it once at WalMart I got one from a Red Box for a dollar, very limited selection, outdoors in the weather, waited in a line with people tapping toes behind me, and I do not trust the security of the whole situation.  I went to return it the next day but realized you have to return it to exactly the same box you got it from and the Red Box at Safeway was not even a RED BOX machine.  It was another company that uses the same system and red boxes.  Never again. 

Time to go back to books... but that is another story of how they cannot rape us for enough money to keep real books alive. 

French Frog's picture

These have been around in the UK for years but not sure if they are available in the good ol' US of A:

DaBernank's picture

Robo? Robo? are you there?

El Gordo's picture

And the President of the company is still there.  He must have to dirty pictures of Board members or something.  This will definately go down as a case study in how to destroy a company virtually overnight.  New Coke has nothing on this guy.

Widowmaker's picture

All upper management needs to be sent packing and the board dismissed.

Investors losing confidence is an understatement of the decade.

In all netflixs press releases and apologies, not one word to investors.

That tells me they knew there was a shit under the rug.

Netflix = $0, book it.

dcb's picture

now if depositors would just pull their cash from bofa