It's no secret that I like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), both the company and the stock. The streaming video veteran is the largest component of my real-money holdings and accounts for 30% of my Motley Fool CAPS score.
But no stock is perfect, and things are changing quickly for Netflix. The stock has nearly doubled over the last year in a bull run powered by global COVID-19 lockdowns. Is Netflix still a buy at these lofty prices, or is this skyrocketing stock just too expensive right now?
Let's have a look.
Netflix by the numbers
The novel coronavirus sent subscriber additions soaring to 15.8 million net new accounts in the first quarter of 2020, followed by another 10.1 million new accounts in the second quarter. To put these numbers in context, Netflix added just 2.7 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2019.
When the company announces third-quarter results on Tuesday, Oct. 20, management expects the red-hot subscriber addition streak to slow down to 2.5 million new accounts. Top-line revenues should rise 21% to $6.33 billion. Earnings guidance points to $2.09 per share, or 42% above the year-ago period.
These numbers sound great, but the chart below struck fear into the hearts of many Netflix investors, who saw nothing but a fading boost from COVID-19. Share prices fell 6.5% the next day and stayed low for several weeks.
Lights, camera, action!
Netflix's stock caught a second wind near the end of August, when analyst firm Piper Sandler said that Netflix probably would hang on to most of the unexpected subscriber additions of 2020. According to Piper Sandler's in-house surveys of Netflix customers, most Netflix users think the service is a great value and wouldn't mind paying roughly 20% more. That report sent Netflix's stock 12% higher in a single day, peaking just below the all-time highs just before July's second-quarter report.
The company has reopened its shuttered content production studios, churning out a broad selection of original shows and movies for 2021 under strict virus safety policies. The Witcher restarted its paused shooting schedule on Aug. 12. The final season of Money Heist also began filming in August. Stranger Things followed suit on Oct. 1. These are just the tip of the iceberg. Netflix is spending big money on content production again, which bodes well for continued growth in 2021 and beyond.
Is Netflix a no-brainer buy?
Netflix is simply playing out the same script it was following before the coronavirus turned up. The stock may look a little less affordable than it did a year ago, but this was a slam-dunk value in the fall of 2019, when several well-heeled rivals like Walt Disney and Apple were gearing up for their own video-streaming service launches. The media-streaming market has room for several successful platforms, and Netflix is leading the pack. The coronavirus crisis accelerated the whole process a bit, but we really just skipped a couple of chapters ahead in a long story of market-crushing growth.
Even at these skyrocketing prices, it's difficult to find a better buy than Netflix in today's market. Please use your brain every time you're preparing to hit that buy button, but buying Netflix doesn't require a whole lot of deep analysis.