UPDATE: Netflix fans ruled the day, sending its shares up 6.8% to $40.40 while the Dow was basically flat. Citi Investment Research’s Mark Mahaney also weighed in with a note saying that DVD rental kiosks, which usually are stocked with the latest hits, will hurt Blockbuster more than Netflix, which focuses more on library titles. Don’t worry: by July all these analysts may be urging shareholders to avoid the stock like the plague.
WEDNESDAY AM: Today provides yet more evidence that Wall Street analysts don’t have a clue what’s going on in media. Just look at the recent jumble of opinions about Netflix. There had been a chill around the movie rental firm as fears grew that it would lose DVD rentals to the new generation of kiosks appearing in grocery stores — and find it hard to compete with Apple, Amazon, Blockbuster and others for digitally downloaded rentals and sales. That was a big reason Credit Suisse analyst John Blackledge gave Netflix an “underperform” rating early this month when he initiated his coverage of the stock. So it’s interesting to see that this morning Barton Crockett at Lazard Capital Markets – who only rates Netflix a “hold” – writes that the company is poised to end the 2nd quarter with 10.7 million subscribers, beating Netflix’s own projections for no more than 10.6 million. The evidence: website traffic for Netflix is soaring. Unique visitors were up 36% in May compared to the same month last year according to comScore, and 27% according to Compete. Also today, Wedbush Morgan’s Michael Pachter upgraded Netflix from “hold” to ‘buy’ with a $48 price target based on higher Blu-ray pricing and ramping subscriber interest in digital streaming technology that will cut Netflix’s postage costs. Both reports follow one last Monday from Caris & Co.’s David Miller upgrading Netflix to “buy” from “above average” following the recent drop in its stock price. It closed Tuesday at $37.83, down from $49.61 on April 20, its 52-week peak. Jeez, why don’t these guys just flip a coin.