Bernstein Is Wrong About Netflix

A bear is awakening from hibernation, and it's a Bernstein bear at that.

Bernstein Research analyst Carlos Kirjner lowered his price target on Netflix (NAS: NFLX) yesterday. Kirjner now sees the stock heading down to $71, lower than his earlier goal of $79.

If this were November -- when shares of the video buffet operator bottomed out at $62.37 after a disastrous third-quarter report -- the southwardly revision would make sense. However, now that Netflix has clawed its way back to the point where it's about to trade in the triple digits for the first time in nearly three months, Kirjner's updated price target seems out of touch.

Netflix clearly still has problems. CEO Reed Hastings has already braced investors for losses this year, and analysts see revenue climbing by a mere 13% in 2012.

However, all of the Netflix hate that venomously swirled during last year's ill-advised price hike, Qwikster fiasco, and secondary offering at a rock-bottom price has largely gone away. No one stepped up as the Netflix killer to take on the disenchanted couch potatoes.

Kirjner is concerned about next week's quarterly earnings report, and he's probably right. It's not going to be a pretty quarter. However, some of his other fears appear to be overblown.

  • He feels that Netflix already has a high penetration rate among affluent households, but what about the value proposition to mainstream audiences now that in-home connectivity is becoming a growing reality?
  • Kirjner feels that margins from domestic streaming will improve, but he's concerned that the higher-margin DVD business will continue to decline sharply in popularity. I'm not so sure. Keep in mind that Netflix actually lowered its DVD plan prices this past summer. Redbox parent Coinstar (NAS: CSTR) actually continues to grow nicely and DISH Network's (NAS: DISH) plans to close more Blockbuster stores should bode well for the remaining DVD outfits.
  • Another fear is that the streaming offering that rolled out in Latin America in September is limited by the region's poor broadband infrastructure and low per capita incomes. He's right, and one malady begets the other. However, DIRECTV (NYS: DTV) hasn't had a problem nabbing millions of customers there to sign up for its pricier satellite television platform.

No one is arguing that Netflix will hit its summertime highs soon. Netflix shares are unlikely to triple from here. However, all of this Netflix hate is so 2011.

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At the time this article was published Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Coinstar and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Netflix subscriber and shareholder since 2002. He does not own shares in any of the other stocks in this story. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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