Is Netflix ripe to be taken over — by Disney, perhaps? Many investors apparently think so: Netflix shares maintained their value today following yesterday’s 4.6% pop on rumors that Disney might consider making an offer.
To be sure, most analysts don’t believe that Disney is seriously interested in buying Netflix. The streaming power has a market value of $45.7 billion — and would probably require a huge premium.
That would make it more than three times costlier than Twitter (last week’s rumored M&A interest for Disney), which many believe is already too expensive and risky for the entertainment power, which the market values at about $149 billion..
Despite its success with film acquisitions including Pixar and Marvel, Disney’s “track record in digital media is not so impressive,” says Dave Novosel, debt analyst at Gimme Credit. “The $563 million for Playdom and the $500 million deal for Maker Studios have not worked out so well.” Twitter could result in “an AOL/Time Warner disaster.”
Still, hope springs eternal. Netflix closed today at $102.34, down a mere 0.3% from yesterday. That’s notable at a time when investors question Netflix’s ability to profit from the huge investments it’s making in original programming and global expansion. Its stock is down 10.5% so far in 2016, after ending 2015 as the market’s highest flyer.
Those who believe a deal is possible see a logic for both companies. Disney needs to become a digital power at a time when its cash cow, ESPN, is losing pay TV subscribers. And Netflix might want to sell before competitors including Amazon Prime, Hulu, DirecTV Now, and HBO Go become more formidable — potentially depressing Netflix shares even further.
It’s hard to see, though, what an acquisition of Netflix would do for Disney. The entertainment company can sell or license content to Netflix without a merger; indeed, they already have a programming deal. Buying Netflix would complicate Disney’s relationship with Hulu, which it co-owns with Comcast, Fox, and Time Warner. If anything, a Disney-Netflix union might deter other studios from offering their hits to the streaming service.
And even if ESPN’s licensing deals with sports leagues gave it the right to move from pay TV to Netflix, doing so would kill one of the fattest golden gooses in all of media. Disney currently collects about $9 a month from every cable, satellite, and telco video subscriber — including the majority who don’t watch sports.
Netflix execs are due to speak to Wall Street analysts on October 17 when it releases its Q3 earnings.