Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Blue Box

Best Buy is toast. The other week at the office, we had a conversation about Best Buy...and it's hard not to think that they're in trouble. Their most recent quarter, although not the horror show that some analysts say it was...was something to be concerned about.

Circuit City is gone, and for several quarters, it was clear Best Buy grabbed all their customers. The stock rocketed. But then, after the most recent quarter, we starting thinking about what might go wrong with Best Buy. Losing money is always the bigger risk when managing money than not making enough. People are generally happy, as long as they don't see red. Black is the new green these days.

So, after seeing the stock decline, selling the stock, then cashing out of the puts...we're left wondering what the future holds for Best Buy. Their biggest risk: pre-packaged media. That's the HUGE section of the store right in the center for movies, music, and games. That's right...going the the store and buying the ACTUAL CD or DVD will soon disappear. And with it, go great margins, revenue, and ultimately profit dollars. Granted, Best Buy announced on the call that they will be beating up GameStop and stealing their lunch money (they're going to start buying, selling, and trading of used games). This new strategy will help offset some of the revenue lost from other media sales...but it will only delay the inevitable: people shop online more an more these days. We visited the local Best Buy to see what computers they had in stock when it was time to get a new laptop at the office. It was clear that we could get far more from a or a than we could by going into the store...and we're willing to bet we're not alone in what we have found.

iTunes has revolutionized content distribution along with NetFlix. If other companies don't catch up, they will be eliminated...Circuit City style. These two companies are taking a huge bite out of Best Buy's pre-packaged media sales with their direct download to consumer programs. So, what is the solution you say, for Best Buy?

Best Buy needs to buy BlockBuster Video. BLOKA.PK (because it now trades on Pink Sheets after it was delisted) is in a world of hurt. Holleywood Video has already been eliminated (Movie Gallery) and BlockBuster is next. Why? Thanks to CoinStar...the creator of the Red Box, brick and mortar movie rental places are getting burned to the ground by these little red boxes with little overhead, no healthcare costs, and loads of profits. BlockBuster has already countered with the Blue Box...but it's too little too late. The ENTIRE MARKET CAP of BlockBuster's stock is now only $36 Million. Heck, for that price Best Buy could take a stab at it and be wrong and still come out OK...but I think that they'd come out better than OK.

First of all, the color schemes are almost identical, so very little in terms of branding would need to be done. They could change the name or leave it, and I don't think people would notice.

Second, all that space they now have in their stores can be converted from pre-packaged media into a BlockBuster. They keep only the hottest selling music in stock (same thing with DVDs, which BlockBuster already sells) and then throw in the buy/sell/trade for music, movies, and games (since they're getting into the act with video reason to stop there). This should be a much better use of the space in stores and they need more revenue/sq foot in the stores because media sales are down so much.

Third, BlockBuster already competes with NetFlix via it's in-the-mail-style rental package. Jumping with both feet into the content distribution for Best Buy should help margins and bring a serious competitor to NetFlix. You can easily see sales reps cross selling the down loadable content to those ready to walk out of Best Buy with a new television. Best Buy can work with the makers of the products it sells to add capability to the televisions, pick a video game partner...the sky would be endless. Deals like buy a television and get access to our downloadable content free for 3 months (after which the billing starts) would help subscriptions skyrocket for the BlockBuster division of the company who already has the service...they just need Best Buy's distribution.

Finally, having a Blue Box outside EVERY Best Buy all over the world means that they have instant revenue Red Box style. I think Blue Box even has a deal with Sheetz, the gas station extravaganza that draws all sorts of people with it's selection and variety of things inside. Adding a Blue Box to the outside of every Best Buy should ADD to the foot traffic inside the stores as some will ultimately venture into the store to shop after they grab a movie. Or, you can see them buying a new BlueRay or Home Theatre and grabbing a movie on the way out.

BlockBuster may have $1 Billion in debt...but it looks like their free cash flow is $650 Million...plenty of cash coming in to refinance the debt with the financial backing of Best Buy behind it. The issue for BLOCKA.PK is that on their own...they face extinction and they just don't have the balance sheet to make it. At 16.5 cents/share for BlockBuster we think Best Buy is missing out on a great opportunity grab a perfect, complimentary a block buster price (and it's a move that might just save both companies).

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