Love entertainment, but don't want to pay for Netflix? Thanks to an increasingly crowded market for streaming services, you don't have to.
Competitors Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report and Disney (DIS) - Get The Walt Disney Company Report are making their debuts this month, bringing new complexity to the streaming market. And while more choices in streaming may be a win for consumers, their implications for market leader Netflix aren't yet clear. Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix Inc. Report shares closed 1.65% lower on Tuesday to $288.03.
With the entry of lower-priced offerings into the streaming market -- Disney+ is $6.99 per month, while Apple TV+ costs $4.99 or free for a year for Apple device buyers -- Netflix is suddenly looking like a relatively costly option. Netflix's most popular standard plan is $12.99 per month, and its premium plan is $15.99 for U.S. subscribers.
Per Sjofors, CEO at Atenga Insights and an expert in how pricing affects consumer behavior, said that there's a psychological threshold at $15 per month that may be risky for Netflix to cross.
"If you go over that, not only will subscription levels decrease, but revenues will decrease," he said. After Netflix posted a quarterly drop in domestic subscribers in July, some analysts speculated that it was partly a reaction to price increases implemented months earlier. (It reported 500,000 net U.S. adds in October, however.)
However, all streaming services are not created equal and, to a great extent, people's willingness to shell out more for a streaming plan depends on their personal preferences or the composition of their households.
Netflix, Disney, Apple and future competitor AT&T (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report , which will release its $14.99 HBO Max offering in May 2020, each have distinctive value propositions. Netflix boasts a high volume of syndicated and original content, including various popular premium shows; Apple has a small catalog of content, but a powerful ecosystem; and Disney's variety of content will likely appeal to families. Disney will also offer a $12.99 bundle that includes Disney+, ESPN+ and ad-supported Hulu. HBO Max, meanwhile, leverages HBO's stature in prestige TV with a range of other brands and syndicated content.
Research suggests that, as it stands, many Netflix subscribers are happy with the service and believe it is fairly priced. PiperJaffray recently conducted a survey of 1,100 Netflix subscribers and found that "most would be willing to pay more to remain subscribers of the service," analyst Michael Olson wrote in October. Using a weighted average of prices, PiperJaffray determined that respondents were willing to pay $15.50 for a Netflix subscription. While that would be impossible to implement in the immediate future, it suggests that Netflix has the ability to raise its average revenue per user domestically -- even if price increases turn off some subscribers.
While price increases carry risks, there can also be pitfalls in setting one's prices too low, Sjofors added. That may particularly affect a brand like Disney, which is a premium brand that commands high prices for other experiences, such as its Disney theme parks, which easily run in the hundreds of dollars for a single visit.
"When you teach your customer that they're going to pay a low price, obviously you can increase prices, but it's not always going to be that easy. Especially when you're a brand like Disney, it may even tarnish their brand," he said.