There's no reason to worry that Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is losing its content deal with Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), says Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger. The company's most important growth markets never had any Disney content to begin with, so why panic?
The analyst note pushed Netflix shares more than 3% higher on Wednesday, bringing the stock just 4% below the levels it held before Disney's decision. As it happens, Juenger is absolutely right.
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Netflix doesn't rely on Disney overseas
The analyst's research revealed that only two of Netflix's largest international markets -- Australia and the Netherlands -- have access to Disney movies today. Most overseas Netflix subscribers have to settle for a much smaller helping of Disney content or none at all.
This is in line with the nature of Disney's original Netflix deal, which always was described as North American affair. The announcement, posted way back in December 2012, talked about "a new multi-year licensing agreement that will make Netflix the exclusive U.S. subscription television service for first-run live-action and animated feature films from The Walt Disney Studios."
It was never a global agreement. Netflix had only started to scratch the surface of streaming services abroad at the time, far from the nearly complete worldwide coverage the company boasts today. Paying Disney a larger fee for a global license made no sense in 2012. Hand-picking titles for each international market was a much better option, even if it required more work to hammer out contract terms on a market-by-market basis.
So Juenger is absolutely correct here. Investors shouldn't worry about the loss of a worldwide Disney deal, because it never existed. The House of Mouse is simply pulling back first-run access to titles published under the Pixar and Disney studio banners -- for U.S. subscribers only.
What about the American market, though?
So Netflix's international growth should continue as before, unharmed by the loss of an all-American Disney deal.
Disney's retreat could make an impact on Netflix's domestic subscriber numbers, of course. Here's how the company's domestic and international subscriber numbers are shaping up so far:
The American market's days of high-octane growth are largely in Netflix's rearview mirror already, while the foreign segment offers plenty of untapped growth potential.
In the U.S. market, Netflix is more concerned about holding on to 52 million subscribers than fueling rapid growth. The company's multibillion-dollar investment in original shows and movies serves exactly that purpose and also helps out with that impressive international growth figure. Big investments in exclusive Netflix content should limit the damage when Disney moves away in 2019.
The Bernstein analyst noted this in his research update, arguing that the catalog of Netflix Originals already has grown large enough to keep Hollywood studios interested in an active relationship with the company.
"Netflix has gotten so big, they are (by far) the customer with the highest ability to pay (globally) for content they want when it becomes available for syndication (i.e. Netflix can write a really big check)," Juenger wrote.
All told, Disney's partial departure won't harm Netflix at all on the international stage, and even the domestic impact should be small. It's time to move on from this storm in a mouse-shaped teacup.
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