Netflix Shares Down 16% This Year as Growth Slows

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Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) shares are not acting like those of a growth stock. They are off 16% this year, compared to a 6% increase in the Nasdaq. Competition and a miscalculation in pricing are primarily to blame.

In May, Netflix raised it monthly rate for some subscribers from $7.99 to $9.99. The company lost subscribers, which affected its overall growth. The damage, however, may have been more than Netflix management expected.

Netflix added only 1.68 subscribers in its most recently reported quarter. Only 160,000 were in the United States. While Netflix has 83.2 million customers worldwide, it also has huge investments in original programming. If Netflix growth flatlines, theses costs become a greater burden, margins erode and Netflix starts to look like other broken growth businesses.

A more sinister cause of the stock price problem is less well-defined than a single quarter of poor subscriber growth. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) are competitors, and ones with almost unlimited financial resources. Hulu is trying to sneak up on the industry too. Huge media companies have started to move into an industry in which they relied on others to distribute there content. One of the best examples of this is the Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) HBO streaming product. Big media wants to keep all the revenue, instead of sharing it with other parties.

Netflix shares have run sideways for a month, trading around $95. They will break lower if the next quarter does not prove the company has discovered a new way to add subscribers.