Netflix, Inc. (NFLX): Can The Stock Keep It Up?

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s House of Cards strategy appears to be working so far. The company added 2 million U.S. subscribers last quarter and saw an earnings surprise of an adjusted $0.31 per share, handily beating analysts’ consensus $0.18 expectation. Netflix generated $1 billion in revenue … you already know these numbers.

Netflix (NFLX)As an investor, however, you must look at what the company will do in the coming quarters. In the long term, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) faces some serious obstacles that could hold back its share price.

The competition

During most of Netflix’s meteoric rise in stock price from late-2008 to mid-2011, the company had practically no competition. Hulu Plus didn’t launch until November of 2010 and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s Prime service didn’t add free streaming video until February of 2011.

As a result, subscriber numbers nearly tripled from less than 9 million to more than 25 million in two and a half years. Then a bungled spin-off of its DVD-by-mail service and the effects of new streaming service competition caused subscriber growth to slow.

Subscribers viewed the spin-off as an effectual price hike and fled by the millions for alternatives. The competition puts significant pressure on Netflix to keep its prices low. Amazon already undercuts Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX)’s pricing, and Hulu Plus and Redbox Instant offer the same price.

More importantly, the opportunity for Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) to raise its prices may be vanishing. Its first-mover advantage allowed the company to acquire a massive content library for streaming. That lead is slowly diminishing.

Amazon has stepped up to the challenge and made significant leaps in its content library to challenge Netflix. Earlier this year, the company nabbed exclusive rights to Downton Abbey, as well as adding The Good Wife while Netflix passed.

Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is particularly fond of pointing out that Amazon, its closest streaming competitor, only offers 74 of its top-200 titles. This is a flawed way of comparing content libraries, but it can be effective marketing. When examining the top 20 movies from each service, each competitor has only 11 of the competitor’s top titles.

Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)’s HBO isn’t standing idly by either as Netflix (and other video streamers) poaches cable subscribers and movie watchers. The company inked a deal in January giving it exclusive rights to Universal’s film catalog. Additionally, the network already has a slew of outrageously popular and highly acclaimed original programs to attract audiences.

Netflix’s latest answer to competition, particularly HBO, is original content. Exclusivity remains an issue, however, even for original content. Exclusivity is key. It’s the business model that propelled HBO to its current status.

The cost of content is rising