Netflix has a message for Disney, Amazon, Apple and the numerous other media and tech companies vying for the streaming media throne: We still wear the crown.
Wall Street took notice. Netflix posted impressive gains in earnings, revenue and subscribers for the first quarter on Tuesday. Although Netflix’s forecast for new subscribers in the second quarter was a bit light, shares of Netflix were flat Wednesday morning. The stock is up more than 30% this year.
Analysts were quick to point out that Netflix typically sets the bar low with its outlook. And it seems that the company’s recent price hike in the United States isn’t causing subscribers to leave in droves as some had feared.
Netflix added more US subscribers than expected in the first quarter, noted UBS analyst Eric Sheridan in a report titled “Chill about Netflix Churn Fears.” Netflix announced its monthly price increase in January.
Price hikes will pay for content
The company also recently announced it would boost prices in Brazil, Mexico and some countries in Europe.
Netflix is raising prices because it has gone on a content production binge — and it needs to find a way to help pay for the estimated $15 billion it is expected to spend on shows and movies this year without having to take on more debt.
It’s worth noting that Netflix shares are still 15% below the all-time high the stock set last summer. Some investors are worried about the looming threat from Disney, Apple and others that have announced plans to launch streaming services. AT&T’s WarnerMedia, which is the parent company of CNN, has a streaming plan in the works, too.
Disney+ launches in November (which means that much of the Disney-owned content on Netflix will disappear) while Apple expects its Apple TV+ service to debut this fall.
Netflix is undeterred, though. The company noted in its earnings letter to shareholders Tuesday that “we don’t anticipate that these new entrants will materially affect our growth,” mainly because the shift to streaming “is so massive.”
Netflix compared this transition in viewing habits to the rise of cable networks in the 1980s and 1990s.
“We believe there is vast demand for watching great TV and movies and Netflix only satisfies a small portion of that demand,” the company said.
It’s true that Disney will launch with a lot of buzzy programs and a how-can-this-possibly-be-real low price of just $6.99 a month. But people are loyal to shows, not networks.
There’s room for more than one streaming network
There are a lot of people who want to watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon’s Prime Video and “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu, along with Netflix’s new superhero hit “The Umbrella Academy.”
Consumers are cutting the cable cord — but they don’t appear to be cutting back on the growing number of streaming service subscription options. Research firm IHS Markit estimates that the total number of streaming subscriptions will hit 536 million this year, and approach 600 million in 2020.
With that in mind, eight Wall Street analysts have raised their price targets for Netflix stock so far this month. Only three have lowered them.
And with new seasons of “Stranger Things,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Orange is the New Black” and “The Crown” — as well as movies like Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” and Michael Bay’s “6 Undergound” — launching later this year, it seems like a bad idea to bet against Netflix.