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Summary:

Getting DVDs from Netflix just got more expensive, but the company is also introducing a cheaper streaming-only option for all those customers that keep forgetting to send back that disc they got three months ago. The pricing changes reflect the costs associated with streaming and postage.

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Updated throughout. Netflix today officially announced the introduction of a streaming-only plan in the U.S., priced at $7.99 per month. The company is also raising the price of its unlimited DVD plans between $1 and $8 per plan (check out the table embedded below for all the pricing changes). But while Netflix could see its average revenue per user decline, as new and existing subscribers choose to go streaming-only as opposed to opting in to more expensive DVD-by-mail plans, its profit margins could actually improve with adoption of the streaming-only option.

From the Netflix blog:

“The price increase will allow us to continue to offer the popular plan choice of unlimited TV episodes and movies streaming instantly along with unlimited DVDs. The new plan, which does not include DVDs, is a great option for the increasing number of members who only want to watch instantly.”

Netflix first introduced a streaming-only plan in Canada in September, where the company currently doesn’t offer a DVD shipping option. CEO Reed Hastings said back then that Netflix was looking at bringing a similar plan to the U.S., and some site members have reported that they were offered such an option weeks ago.

The price increase on DVD-by-mail plans may turn off some of Netflix’s more traditional customers, but it definitely makes sense for the company. Netflix now delivers more programming via streaming than via DVD, and streaming is much cheaper for Netflix than shipping DVDs. If its existing DVD customers choose to “downgrade” their service to a streaming-only plan, its revenue per subscriber might fall, but its profit margins will actually increase.

In a research note by J.P. Morgan issued this morning, analyst Imran Khan estimated more than 30 percent of Netflix’s revenue is spent on “DVD fulfillment.” Not just that, but the effective cost from streaming is essentially fixed, due to licensing agreements the company has struck with various Hollywood studios and other content owners. As a result, each new streaming-only subscriber that Netflix brings on contributes more heavily to its profit margins. As Khan writes, Netflix is essentially “offering a lower price on the streaming plan in order to incentivize users to opt for the higher-margin product.” For Netflix, that comes as welcome news, particularly as it’s better able to manage the cost of bringing on new content than it is able to manage the cost of shipping DVDs, which keeps going up.

Image of Netflix envelope courtesy of Flickr user Scott Feldstein.

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  1. US Postal Service will see decline in their revenue as Netflix spends yearly about $600 millions on shipping costs!

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  2. “As a result, each new streaming-only subscriber that Netflix brings on contributes more heavily to its profit margins.”
    So shouldn’t the streaming plan be cheaper then? I’ve had the 1-DVD plan for a while now. It costs me about $10 month. Why? At least here in California Netflix is taxed, so that $8.99 plan is closer to $10 after taxes.

    I’m one of those that has been sitting on a DVD for the past 3 months. If the “Streaming Only” plan was cheaper. Say $5.99 I would probably go for that. But as of now i’m cancelling my subscription. I don’t watch that much streaming as it is. With my Windows Media Center HTPC + Youtube. I have more then enough stuff to watch. I have mainly kept Netflix for the occasional streaming movie but with the price hike i’d rather just wait for Redbox to offer it’s rumored streaming + 2 DVD a month plan for $5.99 plan.

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  3. Big fan of netflix but their streaming library still sucks compared to its DVD library. Hate to say it but Red Box has them beat so far in the “watch it now” field of immediately available titles.

    If Netflix had new release streamable, they would need to incentivize anyone.

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  4. [...] offering more popular. The company has been investing billions in online rights, and it recently started an online-only subscription package for US customers. These moves have been paying off: CEO Reed Hastings revealed during a recent [...]

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  6. [...] fact doesn’t offer any DVD rentals north of the border. Two months after the Canadian launch, Netflix proceeded to also offer streaming-only subscriptions in the [...]

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  8. [...] and these numbers will continue to grow, especially as Netflix adds subscribers as part of its new, lower-priced streaming-only plan. The amount of data attributed to Netflix will also increase as more consumers buy and connect new [...]

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  9. [...] possibly driving customer growth to record numbers. As more of its users move to streaming, its margins should also improve. Wall Street is clearly betting on the growth to continue, and for Netflix’s earnings to grow [...]

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