In this week's Rule Breaker Investing podcast, Motley Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner and producer Mac Greer are mining the radio vault and revisiting some clips from their old radio shows.
In this segment, they play a clip from a 2003 interview with Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). Hastings discussed his goals for the future of Netflix, and the Gardner brothers contrast that with where the company is today.
A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on April 11, 2018.
David Gardner: CEO Reed Hastings. Netflix? Is that what you have for us?
Mac Greer: Correct, yes. This is from 2003. They are a new public company and he is talking about his goals for the future.
Reed Hastings: Our focus over the next four to seven years is how do we get to $1 billion of revenue? How do we get to $100-200 million of free cash flow? And it's about the five million subscribers or 5% of household penetration. If 5% of American households subscribe to Netflix, we'll get there.
Greer: For those of you scoring at home, Netflix, U.S. households. Do you want to ballpark the penetration these days? It's higher than 5%.
Tom Gardner: I would say they're 110 million households and I'm going to say they have 40 million U.S. subscribers.
D. Gardner: Ish. Yeah.
Greer: That's good. It's around 50%, I think.
T. Gardner: Around 50%.
Greer: And then the last stat I saw for globally is 118 million subscribers.
D. Gardner: Awesome! Now why did you bring that clip?
Greer: Because I thought you all would have something to say about it.
T. Gardner: [Laughs] Good.
D. Gardner: All right, yeah. Let's go with what an incredible stock that has been. I mean, the similarities, as Tom was already drawing to Amazon, are interesting. I mean, obviously they are different businesses although, if you think about who's competing in streaming with original content right now, they feel like one and two. HBO should be included in that mix, but it's fascinating to think that those two companies, and those clips from so long ago [where we bought the stocks, got our members in and have just held all the way through], which is maybe one of the most important points we'll make on this week's podcast, should never be forgotten.
T. Gardner: At our last Motley Fool gathering in San Francisco, I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, who's been a Motley Fool follower for 20 years, now. I asked him whether he thought Netflix was going to be larger than Disney, because I think we, around the table, all agree that we think it will be. I think it will be. And he said, "Absolutely, yes!"
And one of my big takeaways as an investor [because Jeff is a very active investor in his life] is that we should spend a certain amount of our investment time [research and capital allocation] to companies that we think could have hundreds of millions of paying customers or billions of users, given that we are connected like never before in history.
It's maybe a factor that we underrate, Jeff said to me. The worldwide population, he said. And the company that stands out there for me, looking forward, is Netflix. I think Netflix, Jeff said, could have an unbelievable number of subscribers 10 years from now.
Greer: Do you think you're discounting Disney, though? I mean, I've been wrong about Netflix for a long time. I own Netflix, now, but at the time of this clip, Netflix was DVDs by mail.
T. Gardner: Listen, Disney is a great company.
Greer: And I thought, "This is like Columbia House." It felt Columbia House. You get a few free DVDs. Yeah, whatever. A perfectly good Blockbuster down the street.
T. Gardner: Yes, it seemed very fringe. Very fringe.
Greer: Not going to happen. And then obviously they made the transition.
T. Gardner: You remember Reed Hastings in that interview -- maybe that interview or another interview -- told us he felt that Netflix aspired and could become the largest media company in the world, which seemed outrageous back then, and it's playing out now, and I don't have anything negative to say about Disney. It's just that they have so many other assets to manage and a lot of physical assets to manage that take time and don't have the same sort of growth rates. Netflix is all digital. So much original programming. Very high margin model where they're able to reinvest their cash flow.
So, I think Netflix is going to be larger than Disney and when they get there, I don't think they're going to turn back. I think Netflix will be a larger company than Disney 10 years from now.
D. Gardner: I love them all, but...
T. Gardner: And you've made money on them all, but...