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Can We End This "Disney Buying Netflix" Nonsense?

By Rick Munarriz – Nov 14, 2016 at 9:41AM

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Someone else thinks that the media giant should snap up the world's leading over-the-top streaming video service. It didn't make sense a month ago when the chatter began making the rounds, and it makes even less sense now.

Image source: Netflix.

There's just no keeping a juicy buyout story down. Peter Csathy from TechCrunch's Crunch Network played up the proposed pairing of Disney (DIS 1.64%) and Netflix (NFLX -0.22%) on Sunday night. He's the latest media-savvy guru to suggest that Disney needs to buy Netflix. 

Csathy's reasons for the hookup are sound. As the undisputed top dog in premium streaming with a global footprint, Netflix would look good on the arm of any media, telco, or cable television provider. With 86.74 million subscribers to its digital service and nearly 40 million of those outside of the U.S. market, it would give the acquirer unprecedented worldwide access into the homes of connected entertainment consumers. There's also the data that Netflix has collected on viewing habits of its growing audience over the past decade and a half.

It's not a coincidence that Netflix originals tend to resonate with the public. Netflix has the data-munching prowess of knowing the content that folks watch, giving it unique insight into successful video entertainment trends. Disney has a pretty strong track record at the box office, but it's been spotty on the television front. Just imagine what a smarter Disney could accomplish -- but then set it aside, because Disney isn't buying Netflix.

Return your bridal registry gifts -- the wedding isn't happening 

You can't buy what isn't for sale, and Netflix isn't exactly available. One can argue that any company can be had at the right price, but this isn't the same dot-com pioneer that was being tossed around as a takeover target in early October. 

Netflix was vulnerable at the time. It was coming off its worst quarter in years, falling short of its historically conservative subscriber addition goals for the second quarter. There were some third-party reports suggesting that the third quarter would be a disaster. 

The naysayers got it wrong. Netflix blasted through expectations during the third quarter. It now has 17.6 million more streaming accounts than it had a year earlier. A stock that wasn't cheap by most conventional measuring sticks before became even more expensive after the blowout report. If someone didn't step up to buy Netflix when it was out-of-favor this summer, it's not going to be able to justify to its investors the kind of premium that it would have to pay now when it's the unrivaled top dog in this lucrative niche. 

Would Disney buy Netflix with cash or stock? Netflix stock was the best-performing S&P 500 stock in 2013 and 2015. It's not going to repeat the feat in 2016, but when a stock beats the other 499 components of a popular index in any given year, takes a year off, and lands ahead of the pack again the year after that, it's not going to go cheap. Why would Netflix investors swap their stock for cash that stands still or Disney stock that has been a market laggard since peaking two summers ago?

Let them see other people

Disney would have a lot of explaining to do if it acquired Netflix. Rival studios would be hesitant to sign or renew content deals if it would only make a rival stronger. Disney owns a piece of Hulu, and that platform works for TV shows as a partnership of several media giants. Netflix needs to remain network-agnostic to continue succeeding. 

Regulators would also be highly unlikely to let a Disney-Netflix deal go through. Donald Trump has already spoken out against another media combination that's trying to clear antitrust hurdles. 

Disney and Netflix have a great win-win relationship now with one providing content for the other. Disney's not going to put a ring on it. 

Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix and Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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