When investors talk about a company being “Amazon-proof” they’re usually talking about a company like Home Depot Inc (NYSE:HD), which sells very heavy things and gets an advantage from a retail network that can stock them and handle returns. They’re not talking about a company that goes toe-to-toe with Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) in a niche Amazon is targeting, that can price its offerings higher than Amazon and still beat the you-know-what out of it. That company is Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX).
Despite relying on Amazon for its infrastructure, and despite charging up to $14 per month for something Amazon basically gives away, Netflix is this market’s biggest winner. Even considering Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL), the biggest bite in FANG belongs to Reed Hastings & Co.
Over the last year, while everyone discussed Amazon’s historic market cap rise, Netflix has climbed faster. NFLX is up almost 95% to AMZN’s near-75%. Can it keep it up?
How Long Is the Runway?
Netflix’s growth today is not driven by the U.S. market, but by a global market that is rapidly adapting to broadband and is hungry for video content. Netflix was able to gather 8.3 million new subscribers during the last quarter of 2017, and much of the global opportunity remains in front of it.
Its secret sauce is not its content. It’s data.
Netflix’s data show what people binge, informing its decisions on shows and movies to greenlight. It has yet to fully monetize this data beyond this, and that should provide yet another stage to its rocketing growth. That’s why our Charles Payne says you should not bet against its uptrend.
Despite the stock’s continuing rise smart people keep piling into it. Third Point Partners, the hedge fund run by Dan Loeb, which had returns of 181% last year, still bought 2 million shares of Netflix during the fourth quarter of 2017. That stake has risen 38% just since 2018 began.
Netflix’s Hollywood Takeover
All this has allowed Netflix to hire the best-and-brightest right out from under Hollywood’s nose. It can offer what no other buyer can offer — time.
The latest to join Netflix is producer Ryan Murphy, whose TV hits include Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story, and whose movie credits include Running with Scissors and Eat Pray Love.
It’s not just cash but autonomy that wins these deals. The fact that Netflix can fund its stars for several years at a time, not just through a single season or film. Murphy will get $300 million over five years to produce content for Netflix, joining a roster that includes producer Shonda Rhimes, who left Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) last year and The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman.
The cost of these deals has some, like our own Lawrence Meyers, worrying.
What if Netflix’s content weakens? What happens if Disney, Amazon and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) come after it?
That’s precisely why Netflix is doing these deals, increasing its debt load even faster than its assets grow, nearly doubling it in a year from $3.4 billion to $6.5 billion. Netflix is building a second moat, beyond its data trove, becoming a goal for ambitious producers and showrunners. Want to work in your business rather than on it? Sign with Netflix.
The Bottom Line on Netflix, Inc.
There will come a day when Netflix stock will falter, and Netflix growth will slow. There will come a day when Netflix, Inc. faces issues it has real trouble dealing with, or charges of being a monopoly. There will come a day when investors stop paying a premium for growth as well.
But that is not this day. Until then, Netflix remains the one true stock for growth investors.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of the historical mystery romance The Reluctant Detective Travels in Time, available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. As of this writing he owned shares in AMZN.