If you're feeling good about the market, you're not alone. Take my hand as we go over some of this week's more uplifting headlines.
1. Netflix's European vacation
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX ) is throwing out a bigger net. Living up to earlier chatter, the world's leading video streaming service announced plans to expand into Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg. There is no timeline for the actual launch; we only know that it will roll out to the six European countries later this year.
It may not be much of a surprise. Reports out of Germany and France last month had Netflix talking to local content-creators and regulators to begin negotiating deals. The move follows Netflix's push into the U.K. and Scandinavia, so expanding deeper into Europe is only logical.
It won't be easy. Established local favorites are starting to firm up their offerings, making international expansion less of a sure thing than it would have been a couple of years ago. However, with 12.7 million of Netflix's 48.4 million global subscribers coming outside of the U.S., you can't blame Netflix for trying to conquer the world.
2. Game on
GameStop (NYSE: GME ) reported better-than-expected bottom-line results after Thursday's close. Global sales climbed 7% to $2 billion, just shy of the $2.03 billion that analysts forecast, but earnings per share soared 28% to $0.59, just ahead of the $0.57 that Wall Street targeted.
GameStop's business was a battle between an 81% surge in high-margin hardware sales and a 20% plunge in new software sales. The real surprise was a 5% uptick in its preowned and value software category. This is a pretty big deal since reselling trade-ins at hefty markups represents GameStop's highest-margin business, and that segment had declined over the holiday quarter. It wound up being GameStop's biggest contributor this time around, accounting for 30% of global sales and 48% of GameStop's gross profit.
3. Shopping in China
Chinese Internet growth stocks can be volatile, but even in today's iffy climate, we saw JD.com (NASDAQ: JD ) pull off a successful IPO. China's leading consumer direct seller with nearly half of the B2C market priced at the high end of its initial range, but $19 wasn't enough. It closed out its first day of trading on Thursday at $20.90.
JD was formerly known as 360buy, and it's a big fish. A whopping $20.7 billion in gross merchandise volume went through its site last year. This helps set the stage of another e-commerce behemoth -- Alibaba -- to go public in the coming weeks.
4. Amazon gets made
Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) is ready to play with Netflix. On Wednesday, it rolled out the juicy HBO content that it recently scored, providing Amazon Prime members with access to entire seasons of The Wire, Carnivale, The Sopranos, and other HBO shows.
Netflix CFO David Wells tried to play down the content deal this week. "It's good older content with some conspicuous absences in the title list," he said at the J.P. Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference.
Sure, there's no Curb Your Enthusiasm or Game of Thrones. Some of the current shows on HBO will only make seasons that are at least three years old available. It's not a complete HBO deal. However, it will make a difference for Amazon. It's loaded with the serialized dramas that have fared so well on Netflix.
5. Use the force, Luke
We are now 19 months away from Star Wars: Episode VII, but it's apparently never too early to get the buzz started for Disney's (NYSE: DIS ) no-brainer blockbuster. This week, director J.J. Abrams kicked off a contest where the grand prize is a role in the movie.
As Abrams explains, the promotion is done to draw attention to a humanitarian "Star Wars: Force for Change" campaign being done in conjunction with UNICEF to raise funds for innovation labs working on community projects to improve living conditions in many impoverished and emerging markets.
Disney's not going to need the extra attention. This is going to be a big hit of the 2015 holiday season. However, it's a nice touch, as it scores humanitarian points along the way. Who says marketing always has to gravitate to Darth Vader's dark side?
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