Last week's rumor mill was cranking out visions of Amazon.com
However, all of the chatter centered on an uptick in trading activity for Netflix call options that expire next month. In other words, the speculative buzz may be that Netflix is buyout fodder, but there is little more than logic placing Amazon at the scene.
Yes, Netflix would look great on Amazon's arm. It would expand -- and validate -- Amazon's digital video strategy. It's also a market that Amazon once targeted, eventually settling for a halfhearted DVD rental service in the United Kingdom.
Netflix also trades at a substantially lower earnings multiple than Amazon, making the deal accretive to Amazon.com -- even if it has to fork over a healthy premium.
Look a little deeper, though, and Netflix would look great on the arm of many other companies.
(NASDAQ:MSFT). Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sits on Microsoft's board. Less than three months after Netflix began offering online streaming through Microsoft Xbox consoles, more than a million Xbox Live subscribers had activated the application. Despite video-streaming Zunes, disc-fueled Xbox systems, and digital delivery through Xbox Live, Microsoft hasn't made much of a dent in the filmed entertainment market. This would make a huge difference.
(NASDAQ:AAPL). For a company that rarely fails, Apple has been a video laggard. Music and apps are hotter iTunes items than digital video. Apple TV is a rare miss. Netflix would shore up its weakness, playing right into the inevitable video subscription offerings of Apple's equally inevitable tablet computing device.
(NASDAQ:GOOG). The world's leading search engine already owns the ultimate video-sharing site in YouTube. It's just beefing up its efforts to monetize the videos, but it's the same online advertising that accounts for roughly 99% of Google's revenue base. A subscription-based platform would help diversify Google's revenue stream, while providing Netflix with a foot in the door to take its streaming product overseas (if it snags Hollywood's blessing).
(NASDAQ:CMCSA). The country's largest cable subscriber is another obvious suitor, even if it's in the process of an even meatier content acquisition. Owning a majority stake in Universal Studios would make this a conflict of interest, but Netflix would be a cool consolation prize if regulators block the NBC Universal transaction. With Netflix, Comcast's TV Everywhere and video on demand initiatives would be taken to a higher level.
Then again, Netflix doesn't have to cash out at all. It's profitable, growing, and a market darling. My point is simply that Amazon.com isn't the only suitor that makes sense. Like a hot fashion accessory, Netflix is something that many of cash-rich blue chips would love to be wearing these days.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been a Netflix shareholder -- and subscriber -- since 2002. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.