I recently pointed out three things that can go wrong for Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) in 2020, but that's just one side of the story. As challenging as the past year was, between guidance shortfalls and the arrival of legitimate competition, the stock still rose 21% in 2019.
So let's go over a few things that can keep the gains coming in the year ahead.
1. Netflix can go back to beating subscriber guidance
The biggest headwind facing Netflix entering 2020 is the credibility of its quarterly outlooks. Netflix has fallen short of its guidance for net streaming account additions in back-to-back quarters, and that's making it hard to take seriously its goal for closing out the fourth quarter with 7.6 million more members than when the period began.
The arrival of two big rivals in November, with more content-rich rivals on the way this year, may make subscriber growth challenging, so clearing the next guidance hurdle would be huge. For Netflix to close out December with at least 165.93 million streaming accounts worldwide would show the world it can thrive in a more cutthroat climate. Topping its subscriber forecast for the first time in nine months should also send shorts scrambling to cover.
2. Imitation could flatter the bottom line
Netflix marches to its own beat, and that has served it well in the past. It typically pushes out an entire season of original programming on a single day instead of rolling with weekly episodes. It doesn't sell or rent digital movies or TV shows that aren't available on its own platform. It refuses to offer discounts to folks wanting to pay for more than a month at a time.
The competition is doing one, two, or even all three of these things, and these are all levers that Netflix can play with to either help with retention or prop up its financial results. Spacing out the release of new episodes would keep folks close, and the same loyalty can come from locking in premium members for a year or more at a time in exchange for a prepaid discount. Beefing up its offerings by serving up competitively priced TV show episodes and movies that aren't currently available on its platform would also keep subscribers from having to find them elsewhere. Taking the a la carte route would create a lucrative revenue stream, given its massive captive audience, breathing new life into upside projections for average revenue per user.
3. Buyout chatter can finally materialize
Everyone loves to play matchmaker when it comes to Netflix. Last month, Needham analyst Laura Martin, argued that Netflix should put itself up for sale, figuring it could command a 30% premium to its enterprise value. There are only about three dozen U.S. companies with market caps that high, but many of them are the cash-rich tech giants that have been asleep at the wheel as the streaming revolution takes over.
Buying Netflix may not seem like an attractive move, but for a shrewd company considering the potential of becoming the top dog in this booming niche overnight has to be tempting. The acquirer could also pull any of the levers mentioned earlier to boost Netflix's revenue-generating potential or use it as a way to keep its own customers close.
There are a lot of things going for Netflix, and its recession-ready after thriving during the last economic downturn. Netflix would look good on the arm of many tech, telco, and media giants, even if its potential can be just as bright if it remains a single in 2020.