Netflix Stock Falls After CEO Nods To “Whole New World” Of Streaming Competition

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Netflix stock retreated nearly 6% in Friday trading after CEO Reed Hastings described a “whole new world” of streaming competition once Disney+ and Apple TV+ launch in the coming weeks.

“While we’ve been competing with many people in the last decade, it’s a whole new world starting in November,” Hastings said in an appearance at a Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge, England, according to multiple press reports. “It’ll be tough competition. Direct-to-consumer [viewers] will have a lot of choice.”

Hastings tackled a range of topics, from programming budgets to the company’s investment in UK studio space to his affinity for Fleabag, a show for which he said Netflix was “outbid” by Amazon.

In addition to Apple TV+, which goes live on November 1, and Disney+, which follows on November 12, NBCUniversal is launching Peacock and WarnerMedia is prepping HBO Max. Both will hit the market next spring. Amazon Prime Video and Disney-controlled Hulu are also retooling and making aggressive moves.

Netflix stock closed Friday at $270.75. It has dropped 10% over the past week and is now basically flat in 2019 to date. Shares had traded above $300 for much of the year but then dropped sharply in July after the company issued a spotty second-quarter earnings report reflecting its first domestic subscriber decline in nearly a decade.

The comments by Hastings seemed to conflict somewhat with his previous positioning of streaming competition as a welcome development. The company has advanced the theory that the contest is not zero-sum and can have many winners. Todd Juenger, an analyst with Bernstein Research, issued a report to clients on Thursday, embracing that exact notion and reaffirming his “outperform” (buy) rating and 12-month price target of $450 a share.

“The belief that new services will take market share from Netflix rests on an assumption that the services will compete with each other for a fixed number of potential subscribers. We don’t believe that’s true,” Juenger wrote. “We do not believe the launch of additional SVOD services will cause existing Netflix subs to cancel, or future Netflix subs to not materialize.”

The widely tracked migration of staples like Friends and The Office to competing platforms saves Netflix money that it can funnel into new originals, Juenger wrote.

Also, the influx of new streaming options “will accelerate the consumer migration from linear TV to SVOD,” a trend that will only add to Netflix’s first-mover advantage.

Pricing, according to Juenger, is the main liability for Netflix. With most of its 151 million global subscribers paying $13 a month, it is in a much higher bracket than Apple ($5) or Disney ($7). Peacock will be free for Comcast subscribers, with revenue coming from advertising. Further price hikes by Netflix are likely as it looks to cover its massive programming investments. Even so, Juenger wrote, the streaming giant’s price structure “makes sense, given the much greater amount of content (and) frequency of new content on Netflix.”

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