In this segment from Market Foolery, Chris Hill is joined by Motley Fool analystsJason Moser and Taylor Muckerman as they consider the case of Netflix(NASDAQ: NFLX), which announced this week that it will be taking on additional debt to invest in its content pipeline.
With Amazon.comnipping at its heels (and able to subsidize its video service from profits elsewhere), even a dominant media player like Netflix cannot rest on its laurels. It's also exactly the behavior we expect from the company, but the Fools have a question ... or three.
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A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on April 24, 2017.
Chris Hill:I think last week, we weretalking about Netflix needing to raise some money.
Taylor Muckerman:And they do.[laughs]
Hill:Herewe are a week later. Netflix raising $1 billion in Europe. They can use it for whatever they want,but doesn't the smart money say they're going to be spending,if not all of this money, at least the bulk of this money, on original content?
Muckerman:They'd better.Amazoniscatching up to them in terms of spending on original content. $6 billion for Netflix this year, and $4.5 billion for Amazon this year. They'reramping it up. They can sell their Prime video forless than Netflix can,because they can rely on the retail and Amazon Web Services. There's definitely some competition there heating up for the over the top original content programming, andAmazon is not something I want to see in my rearview mirrorif I'm Netflix.
Hill:Whatdo you think, Jason?
Jason Moser:This was certainly expected. Netflix is a business that is going to bebeholden to this very behaviorfor the foreseeable future. They weretransparent about that. Reed Hastings has a strategy, and he's playing it out. On the one hand, weexpect to see this,might as well get this financing while it's cheap. They also have a pretty healthy stock price,I guess is the best way to put it, and they couldcertainly get some cheap capital there as well. I thinkthe question that I have with Netflix -- and,I think this is a wonderful business, and Reed Hastings is very bright, he saw this a long time agoand the strategy has really worked out well for him --at some point,you have to start wondering how saturated the subscriber base becomes, and then you have to start asking the question,what kind of pricing power do these guys have? Becausewe are in such a competitive environment now,and there's so many alternatives out there. We were talking about this earlier this morning on the MDP team, about how 20 or30 years ago, whenThe Sopranoscame out forHBO,that was sort of a revolutionary program,it was sort of a step forward for television. And it was unique. And it lived a very long life, even well after it had gone off the air.
Today, I don't think thesepurveyors of original content have that same luxury. These franchises, these names, they don't last as long, theydon't live as long because there's so much competition out there. So,something likeHouse of Cards, for example,probably isn't going to be as relevant -- andmaybe that's an outlier, I hear it's really good -- but,I don't know that it's going to hold the same sort of relevance 10 or 20 years down the line thatsomething likeThe Sopranosdid. I thinkwhen we start looking at this business, we have to think, "These guys areprobably going to have to be raising a lot of moneyperpetually in order to keep churning out theoriginal content and keeping up withall of the other players in the space." This is a fascinating space to watch,and I think Netflix is certainly the leader in it. I thinkthey've done a lot of things right. And I don't suspect Netflix is going togo the way of the dodo bird. But looking at it from an investor's perspective,I wonder if maybe the low-hanging fruit hasn't been picked here.
Hill:But, in terms of just this deal, just the raising of $1 billion, do youprefer this moveas opposed to a secondary offering? Let's justissue some more stock?
Moser:I thinktoday I would rather see them take the debt out,because at some point, rates are going to be a bit higher, and I think they're going to tend to probably keep a pretty healthy share price. Generally speaking,Wall Street is on board with what they're doing, and it's obviously a very good businessthat's very customer-centric. I think, when you have a business with leadership, Reed Hastings,Jeff Bezos, these kinds of people, and they're very customer-centric, they reallywant to give their customers what they want, those are really powerful long-term stories, as long as they stay in line with thatphilosophy. I suspect that Netflix will be very successful for many years to come, just because of that alone.
Hill:Thank you, doctor. No,it's an interesting question, the example that you raised, Jason, aboutThe Sopranosand HBO,because any time I open up theHBO Go app, I am struck byhow prominentThe Sopranosis, still,to this day, in terms of HBO promoting it. It is so well regarded,it has held up over time, and it is one of those "HBO classic series" that brand-newaudiences are finding every year. I think we'llonly figure this out as time goes on, butit will be interesting to see 10 years from now, 20 years from now,what are the things that Netflix is promoting, that they own? What is theiroriginal content that they keeppushing out to people, because it holds up over time
Moser:Yeah,that's the big question. I have never seenone episode ofHouse of Cards,I don't know anything about the showother than it's been very well received. Maybe that's theirSopranos,maybe that's the property that holds up over time. I think those aregoing to be very tough to come byin the coming decade and beyondbecause of the amount of content. There's just so muchgood stuff out there, far more TV than there istime in the day to watch it,at least for most of us.
Chris Hill owns shares of Amazon. Jason Moser has no position in any stocks mentioned. Taylor Muckerman owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.