Several years ago, when the Cloud was hot, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) stock was at the heart of an acronym called FANG.
Facebook. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Netflix. Google. Later Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) made it FAANG. Now Facebook is Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:FB), Google is Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL), so MAAAN?
Not only is the acronym ridiculous, but to many investors so is the strategy. Netflix stock hit an all-time high of $700 a share in November. It heads into the last day of February at around $390 a share, with a market capitalization of $173.5 billion and the price-to-earnings ratio just below 35.
Flash back to Jan. 20 and the streaming service’s fourth-quarter earnings report. While the company reported a positive earnings surprise — earnings per share of $1.33 for the period versus analysts’ mean estimate of 83 cents — the NFLX stock price actually fell 24.2% from Jan.18-24, as FactSet senior earnings analyst John Butters highlighted in his recent assessment of Q4 earnings surprises.
So, what happened? Investors found two items most distressing.
NFLX Stock Was Already Sliding
The first item that bothered NFLX stock holders was news that membership growth is slowing. It was 21% year-over-year at the end of 2020, 8.9% at the end of 2021. Netflix projects it slipping to 8% in 2022.
Revenue growth is also expected to slow this year, to 10%, despite another price hike. Netflix had $403 million in negative operating cash flow during the quarter, two quarters after achieving positive free cash flow of $692 million.
To be sure, by the time of the release, the NFLX stock price had been falling for months. First came the tech downturn. Then came inflation. Then came the war drums. There’s also an assumption that with the pandemic becoming endemic, people are not going to be watching as much TV. TipRanks now has Netflix as only a “moderate buy”, with almost half of the 35 analysts tracked now either saying sell it or just hold on.
The new narrative is that streaming is mature, that former broadcast networks Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Paramount Global (NASDAQ:PARA) (formerly CBS Viacom), soon-to-be Warner Discovery (NASDAQ:DISCA) and Comcast’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) Peacock are catching up. Consumers are choosing just one or two streamers. You don’t have to catch them all.
I agree. As I have written many times, the gating factor on streaming isn’t money but time. It’s easy to get all the shows you want from a single streamer. Why waste money on what you might not watch?
Changing the Narrative
Netflix does have its fans. They see little resistance to the price hikes. They see Netflix continuing to develop shows people want to see, like Squid Game and Bridgerton.
Then there’s gaming. Most studios see it as a threat. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sees it as an opportunity.
Netflix Games launched last November. It’s mobile games that come free with a subscription to the service. There are 14 available and three more are on the way. The company has signed partnerships with Rocket Ride, Riot Games, and Hyper Hippo to add more.
Since these are mobile games, users don’t expect super-low latency. They’re designed for Apple iOS and Android phones, and are hosted on the phones’ infrastructure, rather than Netflix’ own. They also include games built around existing Netflix content, like the show Stranger Things. This cuts costs because Netflix already owns the story. Gaming also keeps young adults on the platform, reducing churn.
The Bottom Line
Netflix has big advantages in the coming streaming consolidation.
It already has the customer. Its data can tell it exactly what they want. It continues to spend on more content, including in international markets rivals have barely tapped.
Netflix also has a content delivery network, Open Connect, developed to reduce ISP costs for providing its movies. In gaming, having content close by also reduces latency, and thus improves the service.
I agree that consolidation is coming to streaming. The winners will be those with global scale. The winners will be Disney, Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Google’s YouTube,. These are the streaming stocks worth buying when they’re cheap. Netflix is getting cheap.
Call it the “De-FANGing” of tech stocks.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held long positions in AAPL, AMZN, and GOOGL. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Dana Blankenhorn has been a financial and technology journalist since 1978. He is the author of Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, available at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him at @danablankenhorn, or subscribe to his Substack.