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Netflix: Next Stop $205?

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The ceiling is getting higher at Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) .

JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth is bumping his price target on shares of the leading video service provider from $180 to $205.

With the shares closing at $177.95 yesterday, it just didn't seem right to be bullish with a price goal calling for just 1% in capital appreciation. However, Anmuth relays that recent meetings with the company indicate that "House of Cards" is off to a strong start. He feels that the show's success will find Netflix digging deeper to bankroll original programming.

We already got a taste of that yesterday when Netflix broadened its deal with DreamWorks Animation (NASDAQ: DWA  ) to be the exclusive home of a new computer animated series that will begin streaming by year's end.

Netflix now has a half dozen shows that will stream exclusively through its service this year. Netflix has always wanted to be compared to Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) HBO. It has surpassed HBO with more than 33 million streaming subscribers, and with a few strokes of contract signatures, it's now the undeniable home of "must-stream" television.

Spacey sprockets
How successful is "House of Cards," exactly? Netflix isn't putting out any firm numbers -- yet -- but content chief Ted Sarandos did provide some insight at AllThingsD's D: Dive Into Media yesterday.

It's probably not a surprise to find that the show is the service's top piece of content right now in terms of the number of people watching and the hours being streamed. The initial 13-episode season became available in its entirety this month, and since it can only be seen via Netflix's $7.99-a-month streaming service, the star-studded political drama is going to be a big draw.

However, Sarandos did say that nearly everybody who's watched the first episode has gone on to stream subsequent installments. That's encouraging. It validates the controversial "binge viewing" approach, where Netflix makes an entire season's worth of episodes available immediately. It also makes it more likely that those subscribers will stick around for the next season come early next year.

Binge and purge
"We are crafting long-form story telling for any way you want to watch," Sarandos says, as retold by CNET. "We won't get the weekly buzz thing, but neither do albums ... or books."

He's right about albums and books, but when was the last time folks around the water cooler discussed an album and book and revisited the same topic week after week with new details to add?

Folks are definitely smitten by the show. I'm six episodes in, and I'm mesmerized. However, I can't simply begin buzzing about the show with others watching along. No one is on the same page. There will never be a who-shot-JR "Dallas" moment here, where everyone's glued to the same cliffhanger. Maybe that's OK. There really haven't been too many of those moments for scripted television these days, anyway. There are too many channels and streaming options, so everyone is watching something else.

Blame it on TiVo
TiVo (NASDAQ: TIVO  ) opened this can of worms. Sure, VHS recorders came before it, but TiVo's internal storage and intuitive controls -- and, of course, the benefit of time-shifting live content -- made it a radical upgrade to the way we were consuming television before.

Is Netflix the new TiVo revolutionary?

We're all immersing ourselves in personalized television just as iTunes and Pandora (NYSE: P  ) have birthed personalized radio. Nobody talks about something that they heard on the radio and assumes that others have heard it. We're all on our own paths of discovery in a world of growing entertainment options.

Pandora doesn't appear to be suffering by giving everyone a unique music streaming experience. There were 65.6 million people consuming 1.39 billion hours of music on Pandora last month.

Netflix is there in terms of sheer streaming volume. It's been streaming more than a billion hours of video a month since early last year, and unlike Pandora, which is largely consumed as a free ad-supported service, folks are actually paying for Netflix.

Qwikster fiasco aside -- and that is so 2011 -- the default reaction on Netflix decisions has to be that they're right until they're proven otherwise. Binge viewing could be what spoils consumers, driving one more nail in the coffin of traditional television. Until we see that saga play itself out -- and that's the only thing that we'll be getting from Netflix in timed installments -- we'll just have to enjoy the stock's return to favor. Netflix hit 52-week highs earlier this month, and there's at least one analyst at JPMorgan who thinks we're eventually heading even higher than that.


Betting on Netflix
The precipitous drop in Netflix shares since the summer of 2011 has caused many shareholders to lose hope, but the shares have been storming back. While the company's first-mover status is often viewed as a competitive advantage, the opportunities in streaming media have brought some new, deep-pocketed rivals looking for their piece of a growing pie. Can Netflix fend off this burgeoning competition, and will its international growth aspirations really pay off? These are must-know issues for investors, which is why we've released a brand-new premium report on Netflix. Inside, you'll learn about the key opportunities and risks facing the company, as well as reasons to buy or sell the stock. We're also offering a full year of updates as key news hits, so make sure to click here and claim a copy today.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 13, 2013, at 9:40 PM, mark516119966 wrote:

    Don't get too excited. Apple is going to $1000 is still a recent memory.

  • Report this Comment On February 14, 2013, at 12:22 PM, DigitalMediaView wrote:

    The exuberance over NFLX all comes down to faith in upside for its proprietary content play. NFLX has locked in multi-billion dollar commitments for increasingly more costly licensed content for many years to come, so they have already spent forecast subscriber growth, and now look to $100M investments in originals to grow incremental subs. With streaming business gross margins below 20%, it will take 5 million incremental new subs retained for a year to break even on such bets. Contrary to the assertion in this article, binge viewing a hit doesn't make sub retention more likely, it makes it less likely: if you signed up to watch House of Cards, you binge view it in a month, churn, and then re-up when Season 2 is available. If you are betting on original content upside making NFLX more profitable, you must believe NFLX will add more than 5M subs beyond its current forecast growth this year, far above their guidance. Risky bet.

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