Friday, October 14, 2011

Netflix: Losing Its Grip

In business, being the first to market an product or service places the company (market leader) at a huge advantage over those that follow in their footsteps. Research has shown that market leaders are likely to maintain the lion's share of the market for decades. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule; and Netscape was one of the unlucky market leaders that was not able to hold its edge over followers. That said, Netflix may prove to be another such exception to the rule if they are not careful.
Netflix is still recovering from the summer debacle, where they raised their fees 60% and attempted to separate the physical DVD rental business, from the streaming videos business. The strategy to shift their business model was ill-fated. The response to the announcement should have given them all the warning they needed not to move forward with the plan. The idea probably sounded brilliant in the boardroom, but it was obviously not founded on solid research, or customer surveys. In roughly three months time, Netflix stock price dropped 36% to $115 per share. To put it in perspective, on July 7th. Netflix stock sold for $292 a share. That is quite a fall from grace.
Netflix reported a loss of 800,000 subscribers in the 3rd quarter. Analysts predicted a loss of 600,000, which had caused the stock to swiftly decline 20%. The company warned of more defections and stated that they anticipate losses for the first quarter of 2012 as a result of expanding their business to Europe. In the meantime, RedBox is enjoying the flood of subscribers looking for refuge from Netflix who took their loyalty for granted.

Netflix‘s short sightedness, is clearly a result of both lack of due diligence and arrogance. Hastings, founder and CEO of Netflix had the vision and leadership to innovate and steer the company to tremendous success, so what happened? It is hard to believe it the same person at the helm steering the company recklessly away from its customers. The loyal, or stubborn shareholders that choose not to dump the stock are looking for an explanation. The public apology did eventually come from Hastings, but the damage was already done. As they say, you can’t un-ring a bell. I am willing wage a bet this debacle has already become a "what not to do" lesson that will be remembered by Hastings, and board of directors for years to come. It will be interesting to see what strategy the company will implement for damage control, and rebuilding its US customer base.

Back to Home Page

K. Reilly
The Cohn-Reilly Report

No comments:

Post a Comment