It has been a tough year for Netflix (NFLX 2.39%), to say the least. The company shed 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022 and followed that performance by losing another 1 million members in the second quarter. And the stock has gotten hammered, down 66% from its all-time high last November. However, it's not all bad news for Netflix.
Let's take a look at an important data point that could turn the streaming giant's naysayers into supporters of the business and its stock.
Netflix is still the top streaming service
According to Nielsen Holdings, a market research firm, Netflix accounted for 8% of total U.S. TV viewing time in the month of July, the most of any streaming service provider. Not only was this higher than the 7.7% recorded in June, but it was also 0.7 percentage points above Alphabet's YouTube. Streaming hours surpassed cable TV for the first time ever as well, an accomplishment that proves the secular shift away from traditional TV toward streaming entertainment still has legs.
The fact that Netflix is still the top dog when it comes to streaming hours should give confidence to shareholders betting on the company's long-term prospects. Unsurprisingly, the business losing subscribers this year has been a major catalyst driving the stock down. But Netflix remains the go-to streaming choice for consumers.
Last year, the company spent $17.5 billion in cash on content. And this year, the management team expects to spend roughly the same amount. That's an incredible war chest to continue investing capital in attracting new members and retaining existing ones. Introducing hit series, like Bridgerton and Stranger Things, as well as popular movies, like Red Notice and Gray Man, on a consistent basis will help reduce churn and bring additional subscribers onto the platform.
"We're executing really well on the content side," co-founder and co-CEO Reed Hastings mentioned on the Q2 2022 earnings call.
After Netflix and YouTube, rounding out the list (in order) were Hulu, which is majority-owned by Walt Disney, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Warner Bros Discovery's HBO Max. Despite what is increasingly becoming an extremely crowded market, Netflix still shines.
Looking ahead, the return of the NFL and NCAA football seasons this fall should boost viewing time for cable-TV providers. Therefore, when Nielsen releases data for August, and especially September, don't be surprised to see streaming's share fall back to second place. Nonetheless, with major streaming players like Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet making inroads into live sports, it's probably only a matter of time before streaming solidifies its top spot on a regular basis.
"Everyone is pouring in," said Hastings. "It's definitely the end of linear TV over the next five, 10 years."
Netflix stock could be a buy
With shares down 62% in 2022, Netflix stock today trades at a price-to-earnings multiple of 21 and a price-to-sales multiple of over three. Both of these valuation metrics are significantly below their trailing five-year averages. And Netflix's 38% return over the past five years is less than half of the S&P 500's total return during the same time.
Even longtime Netflix bears might consider buying the stock after looking at the data point discussed earlier and the current depressed valuation. The pessimism surrounding the business today could prove to be a great buying opportunity for investors who are able to ignore the noise and focus on the bigger picture.
And that bigger picture is that Netflix, with its 220.7 million subscribers today, still has a huge growth runway ahead, especially in international markets. The U.S. and Canada (UCAN) market appears to be saturated in terms of membership growth, combined with losing almost 2 million customers in the first six months of this year. But in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, Netflix added nearly 7 million subscribers over the past four quarters. And India, in particular, is a major growth market for the business.
For those who still believe in Netflix's future, now is the time to buy the stock.