3 Questions for Netflix to Answer Tomorrow

Reed Hastings and his fellow Netflix execs will be under the hot spotlight after Monday's market close.

Rick Munarriz
Rick Munarriz
Apr 20, 2014 at 10:15AM
Consumer Goods

The leading video streaming service is on the clock. Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) reports on Monday afternoon, and there will be plenty at stake for reborn dot-com darling. Despite shedding nearly a quarter of its value since peaking last month, the stock is trading slightly higher than it was on the day it reported fourth-quarter results three months ago.

Tomorrow could be great, leading to a big pop on Tuesday. However, the stock's huge rally over the past two years also opens the door for some serious profit taking if it doesn't impress. There are questions that Netflix will need to answer if it wants to keep the good times going.

1. Can Netflix top 48 million worldwide streaming subscribers?
Netflix closed out 2013 with 44 million streaming accounts. Its guidance finds it targeting 48 million customers by the end of March. That's ambitious, but Netflix has historically been conservative in its public projections. 

There's no dodging this question. Netflix always puts out its quarterly user metrics. 

2. Can Netflix exceed expectations?
Netflix has been leaving analysts in the dust in recent quarters, beating Wall Street profit targets by 23% 6%, and 20% in the past three quarters, respectively. This sets the stage for another beat on Monday after the market close.

Expectations may seem high this time around. Analysts see profitability exploding to $0.83 a share, from $0.05 a share a year earlier. Strong bottom-line growth has come as its scalable model is starting to pay off, but we also can't dismiss the narrowing losses overseas.

Bears tend to ignore the fact that Netflix's international investments are currently weighing on its bottom line. They point to Netflix's lofty earnings multiple -- 84 times this year's projected earnings and 47 times next year's forecast -- as a sign that Netflix is overvalued. They rarely take the time to back out Netflix's overseas operations, making the false assumption that it's worth less than nothing by boiling it all down to nearsighted P/E analysis.

Either way, another earnings beat should lead to a strong pop at the open on Tuesday. Last time out the beat saw Netflix shares soar 16% from $333.73 to $388.72 on its highest daily trading volume of 2014. There was more to that report than merely smoking the Wall Street pros, but that's always a good start. 

3. Is Fire TV a threat or an opportunity?
Amazon.com's (NASDAQ:AMZN) push into set-top media players turned heads a couple of weeks ago. The devices play nice with Netflix, but naturally a big part of Fire TV is pushing Amazon Prime customers toward the growing catalog of streaming movies and TV shows that the online retailer offers them at no additional cost.

This would naturally seem to be working against Netflix, but there are a few positives that may not seem clearly evident at the moment.

  • Fire TV raises the bar with several new features that will likely be incorporated in rival devices. Voice search alone is a game changer, and making it easier for users to navigate through selections should expand the popularity of overall streaming.
  • Amazon just increased the price of Amazon Prime by 25% to $99 a year, making itself more expensive as a general platform than Netflix.
  • Content is still king, and as more people flock to streaming from conventional TV viewing we will keep finding Netflix in the pole position. The moat is stronger than you might think, with nearly 50 million global subscribers to absorb content licensing costs. The rich will get richer. Fire TV is just speeding up the streaming revolution. 

Netflix may or may not address Fire TV, but it would be neat to have an early read on usage from the new media player.