Netflix, Inc. Just Made Its First-Ever Acquisition

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Stop the presses! Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) just made a small acquisition.

Its buyout of comic book publisher Millarworld, announced before Monday's opening bell, is notable for a couple of reasons.

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Let me count the ways.

5 reasons why Netflix investors need to pay attention

  1. The Millarworld buyout is small enough that the companies didn't bother including a deal price in their press materials. So it's a low-risk move for the streaming video veteran.
  2. At the same time, the deal gives Netflix access to a valuable library of characters and stories in the popular superhero style. Three of the five highest-grossing movies so far in 2017 fall into that genre, so consumers are clearly still hooked on the superhero rush that arguably started with X-Men nearly two decades ago.
  3. This is essentially a holding company for the creative assets of comic book superstar Mark Millar, whose credentials include both Marvel and DC Comics. Millar's independent work includes the inspiration for hit movies like Logan, the Kick-Ass series, and the Kingsman franchise. Global box office receipts for these blockbusters have added up to $1.2 billion so far, and another Kingsman movie is hitting theaters in September. In other words, Millar's work is relevant to modern movie audiences.
  4. Netflix appears to have big plans for its new comic book investment. "Mark is as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee," said Netflix content guru Ted Sarandos in a prepared statement. "We can't wait to harness the creative power of Millarworld to Netflix and start a new era in global storytelling."
  5. This is the first acquisition in Netflix's own two-decade history. The company was founded in August 1997, but has never before spent a penny to acquire another business.

What's the big deal?

It remains to be seen whether Netflix is planning to shut down the comic book publishing side of Millarworld. If not, the company would be taking a small step in the direction of Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS) and its world-class content monetization strategy. Adding comic books to Netflix's arsenal may not move the revenue needle very far, but could serve as an introduction to other real-world retail opportunities like lunch boxes, T-shirts, and eventually holiday resorts based on Netflix-owned characters.

Consumer products comprise the highest-margin business in Disney's portfolio so Netflix would do well to copy that idea in the long run.

And, of course, this is Netflix's first-ever buyout. Will Millarworld simply be the first of many small plug-in acquisitions to bolster Netflix's content assets and beyond, or will this deal be remembered as a one-off departure from the company's aversion to buyouts? I would not be surprised to see at least a couple more content-related acquisitions announced over the next couple of quarters as Netflix tries this tactic on for size.

Either way, Netflix is expanding its horizons with the Millarworld deal, and I can't wait to see what comes next. And like I said, there isn't much risk involved this time. Sounds like a win-win for Netflix's content production strategy and for its long-term shareholders.

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Anders Bylund owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.