Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) has been transformed into a streaming TV and movie business. The transformation has nearly been completed. When it comes to selling streaming video content, Netflix is clearly number one. In September, the company reported 25 million U.S. streaming video subscribers. The company has about 4.3 million international subscribers. Despite its industry leading status Netflix cannot rest on its laurels. Netflix has three competitors that are looking to knock it out of the top spot. Those competitors are Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) , HBO, and Redbox Instant.
Amazon hopes to attract subscribers by offering a cheaper package than Netflix. Amazon offers a one year streaming-movie service free with the purchase of an Amazon Prime membership — $79 a year. (That comes out to $6.58 a month) The prime membership package included perks like free two day shipping on purchases, and free Kindle downloads. The problem with Amazon is that it only offers a limited selection of older movies. Netflix beats Prime on movie selection, site clarity and playback features. Netflix won’t say how many movies it owns, but informed estimates put its catalog at twice the size of Amazon’s.
Redbox Instant is owned jointly by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) and Coinstar, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSTR). Redbox Instant plans to offer unlimited streaming and four free disk rentals at any Redbox for $8 per month. Redbox streaming video service should not be a worry for Netflix. Their digital library consists of only 4,500 titles. Redbox has been talking about offering a digital movie service for two years, but on January 9 it once again put off the rollout date, this time until March. I have seen the Redbox kiosks outside of supermarkets and stores such as Walgreens or CVS, and for me and I am sure that for others, the idea of running back and forth to rent videos is not appealing. Some have said that Redbox will be a Netflix killer, but Shawn Strickland the Redbox CEO said, “We’re not a Netflix killer” “We’re focused on movies. DVD’s are our core, that’s a core differentiator”. I agree with Mr. Strickland, I seriously doubt that Redbox can effectively compete with Netflix.
Home Box Office (HBO) is probably the biggest threat to Netflix. HBO is a premium American cable network, that is owned by Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX). As of September 30th HBO had 30 million subscribers. HBO been turning up the heat in its competition with Netflix. On January 6th HBO signed a 10 year deal with Universal Pictures. The deal was made to prevent Netflix from streaming movies from Universal pictures. The deal with Universal, which is a unit of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBCUniversal, gives HBO the rights to about half of Hollywood’s big releases. With the Universal deal, as well as a menu of original shows like Game of Thrones, Girls, & True Blood; HBO is emerging as "the closest thing Netflix has to a direct competitor," argues Paul Tassi at Forbes. There is no doubt that HBO’s content is competitive with Netflix’s. The problem with HBO is that subscribers have to pay a high price to the mother channel in order to subscribe to HBO. HBO has also signed deals with Summit Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, and its affiliated company Warner Brothers. It seems that HBO’s ultimate goal is to slow down Netflix by grabbing up as many newly released movies as possible.