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Netflix Has a Lot to Prove This Week

By Rick Munarriz - Jul 14, 2019 at 2:00PM

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The world's leading premium streaming video service reports second-quarter results on Wednesday afternoon, and there's never a dull moment.

Earnings season kicks off this week, and one of the early reports that a lot of investors will be watching is Netflix ( NFLX -0.21% ). The leading premium platform for video streaming reports its second-quarter financials shortly after Wednesday's market close.

A lot has happened at Netflix since its last report. Netflix has had plenty of hit shows and films, including the third season of Stranger Things earlier this month. Disney ( DIS 3.55% ) struck a deal to take control and eventually full ownership of Hulu. Disney's Captain Marvel became the first new film by the media giant to not be available for streaming through Netflix. The Office and Friends found new homes and will be leaving Netflix in the next two years. Netflix also held its annual shareholder meeting. A previously announced price increase went into effect in May.

The only thing that hasn't happened with Netflix is stock movement. Shares of the typically volatile investment have risen a mere 3.8% since the last quarterly report, nearly identical to the S&P 500's 3.7% advance in that three-month span. It's a safe bet that we're about to see that change this week. 

The cast of Spain's Elite show on Netflix with bloody hands.

Image source: Netflix.

Great expectations

Netflix established ambitious guidance for itself in mid-April. It saw revenue rising 26% -- accelerating from the first quarter's 22% pace -- to $4.928 billion. Its outlook at the time was calling for operating margin to clock in at an all-time high of 12.5%. Reported net income should slide to $0.55 a share, but largely as a result of one-time events that will prop the effective tax rate for the quarter to a beefy 48%.

Netflix has historically been conservative with its financial previews, but Wall Street isn't seeing a lot of upside to the original guidance. Analysts see a profit of $0.56 a share on a 26% top-line gain, all roughly in line with Netflix's mid-April take on things.

How Netflix sizes up relative to its expectations matters, of course, but that's just one piece of the pie that will determine which was the stock moves on Thursday. Guidance for the third quarter will be just as important as the look back. Any insight that Netflix can offer on the industry itself can also help shape the market's opinion. Disney's potentially disruptive Disney+ will launch halfway through Netflix's fourth quarter. It lost Friends and The Office to platforms that don't even exist publicly yet. No one can definitely know how all of these moving parts will play out, but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has been a visionary every step of the way in the cord-cutting revolution. It's time to see how he looks at the playing field. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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