That kind of performance does not go unnoticed, and the press has devoted miles of column space to the digital video veteran. Some of the headlines along the way managed to cut through this din and raise important questions. Here are three of my favorites.
"Netflix, Hollywood in a tense tango they can't stop"
If the headline didn't convince you that this article came with serious analytic chops, perhaps the quick summary will:
Good news, Hollywood! Netflix is becoming less interested in buying the movies you make.
Also, bad news, Hollywood! Netflix is becoming less interested in buying the movies you make.
Ovide, a longtime writer for The Wall Street Journal who recently moved over to Bloomberg, dug into conference comments by Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos. She brought along a keen understanding of Netflix's content challenges and opportunities.
In short, Netflix is shaking up Hollywood as we know it, but the disruptor also faces serious challenges along the way. The company wants to make a ton of original shows and movies, because that's the best way to lock down subscriber loyalty as well as profits for the long haul. But if Netflix moves too fast, it will quickly lose the cooperation and content licenses from established studios -- and those assets will be necessary until Netflix has built up enough of an original library to stand on its own.
From the other side, the studios are loving the new revenue streams that Netflix brings to the table. For example, Dreamworks Animation SKG (NASDAQ:DWA) CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg loves his Netflix partnership:
"We, as you know, have had a very long and a very, very great partnership with Netflix," Katzenberg said in Dreamworks' most recent quarterly earnings call. "It began with our feature output deal a number of years ago and then moved onto the television side. They have been an incredible partner to us and we value it in an incredible way."
CFO Fazal Merchant went on to note that "a disproportionate amount" of his rosy guidance for TV sales came from the Netflix business.
On the other hand, Netflix and other streaming services are slowly strangling the old cable TV business, which remains too large and too profitable to just abandon in a huff. Embracing Netflix and Amazon Prime too quickly could backfire in a big way.
I think Ovide's dance-of-death metaphor was very apt, and this headline caught my eye for all the right reasons. I left that article feeling both nervous and excited as a Netflix shareholder -- and very satisfied that Ovide had delivered on the headline's promises.
"Time Warner Says It's Ready to Start the Great Netflix Pullback"
From Peter Kafka, another sector veteran who now works as senior editor at Re/code, comes another look at the same megatrend as the first headline.
We are evaluating whether to retain our rights for a longer period of time and forego or delay certain content licensing. This would effectively push the [subscription video] window for content on our networks to a multiyear period more consistent with traditional syndication.
Kafka offered his own interpretation of what Bewkes really wanted to say: "We're going to make it harder to find our best stuff on digital outlets like Netflix and Amazon, because we don't want to give our viewers a reason to watch it there instead of on our own networks."
That's one step toward Time Warner separating its Hollywood church from the streaming state. The executive who once compared Netflix to the Albanian army is now trying very hard not to upset the Albanians while he's figuring out how to live without them.
The analysis here is short and sweet, but painfully accurate. As Kafka noted, Time Warner shares have been sinking in 2015 amid cord-cutting fears, while Netflix share have been moving up.
"Netflix's New, Generous Parental Leave Policy Leaves Some Employees Out"
Finally, journalistic powerhouse NPR distilled Netflix's new parental leave policy into a single headline, highlighting both the upside and the downside of the new rules in only 71 characters.
If you haven't heard about this controversial policy yet, Netflix provided unlimited maternity and paternity leave to its employees, with the only stipulation being that the leave should be taken within the first year after the birth or adoption.
"Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed," according to the official announcement. "We'll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay."
There were two issues with this otherwise humane policy change.
First, Netflix workers already have the ability to take unlimited time off under a generous vacation policy that should ring a bell with the staff here at The Motley Fool. So the parental leave thing is not really a revolution, just some more official encouragement to actually use some of that free time.
Second, and much more contentious than the first, this change did not apply to all Netflix workers. Specifically, it only extended to "salaried streaming employees." That left out the part-time workers sorting DVDs in shipping centers and other supporting staff. In other words, the generous policy only applied to the people who needed it the least.
NPR was not alone in figuring this out, but that headline cut to the heart of the matter in a unique way. Always the gumshoe at heart, the NPR staff reached out to Netflix for clarifications and connected the dots. Another example of delivering on the headline's promises.
In Netflix's defense, the company recently came through with a diluted version of this benefit for hourly workers. Previously, Netflix only covered maternity disability pay for these workers, at 60%-66% of their full salary, and with no support for adoptions or paternity leave. Now, these workers will get from 12 to 16 weeks of fully paid leave, including paternal and adoption coverage.
Golf clap, anyone?