Coinstar Shouldn't Follow in Netflix's Footsteps


Newsflash for anyone in the DVD-rental business: Customers don't like it when you jack up prices. Just ask Netflix (NAS: NFLX) .

With as much negative press Netflix has gotten in recent months over the silly Qwikster episode and 60% price increases, Coinstar's (NAS: CSTR) announcement yesterday that it would similarly be ratcheting up prices overshadowed the better-than-expected quarterly earnings results. With as much as Coinstar has aspired to be like Netflix, maybe the price increase is just another way to follow in its footsteps.

The increase isn't as large, but it's enough to rattle investors, who sent the shares down in extended trading after the announcement. DVDs from the company's recognizable Red Box kiosks will see the daily rental rate jump from $1 per day to $1.20 per day, starting Monday. The math whizzes in the room will tell you that equates to a 20% increase.

The company attributed the increase to rising operating expenses like debit-card interchange fees. Interestingly, the prices for Blu-ray and video game rentals remains unchanged at $1.50 and $2 per day, respectively. What's next? Will DISH Network (NAS: DISH) bump up the prices at the remaining brick-and-mortar Blockbuster locations?

In separate news, Bloomberg reported that movie studios are considering extending the delay before DVDs are available for rental. The current delay is 28 days, and movie executives allegedly want to make it a 60-day wait.

Coinstar's third-quarter revenue jumped 22% to $465.6 million, with the increase driven almost entirely by strength in the Redbox segment, as the lackluster namesake Coinstar division was practically flat year-over-year. Earnings per share came in at $1.18, decimating the consensus estimate of $0.88. Fourth-quarter revenue is expected to be in the range of $485 million to $510 million, also topping the expected $482.3 million.

Based on the initial reaction from Coinstar shareholders, there's skepticism after factoring in how Netflix customers responded to those price increases: 800,000 of them called it quits.

This is absolutely the worst possible climate for Coinstar to try a rate change like this. The company is just giving already-peeved DVD-rental customers another reason to walk away, and the Redbox segment is the best thing the company has going for it. It would have been better off quietly eating those debit-card fees and absorbing disgruntled ex-Netflix subscribers.

There's a time and a place for price increases, and this is neither the time nor the place.

  • Add Coinstar to your Watchlist to see if it starts losing customers.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuholds no position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Netflix and Coinstar. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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