Netflix has a lot to prove when it reports its third quarter results after the closing bell Wednesday. Concerns about increased competition have reached a fever pitch, and the streaming giant is no longer a stock market darling.
Netflix (NFLX) spooked Wall Street in July when it said that it lost US streaming subscribers in the second quarter. International subscriber growth slowed dramatically too. As a result, Netflix (NFLX) shares have plunged nearly 25% in the past three months.
The stock is still up more than 5% so far in 2019. But that makes it the worst performer of the vaunted FAANG five of Big Tech. (Facebook (FB), Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) and Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL) are all up between 15% and 50% this year.)
The streaming media landscape is getting increasingly crowded. So it will only get tougher for Netflix to stand out.
Disney+, the Disney-owned streaming service, launches on November 12 – and with a price of just $6.99 a month compared to Netflix’s standard $12.99 plan.
If dealing with the House of Mouse, which owns Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars producer Lucasfilm as well as the namesake Disney (DIS) studio, weren’t enough, Apple (AAPL) is set to launch its Apple (AAPL)+ streaming service on November 1 with a monthly subscription price of only $4.99.
New rivals poaching older shows
These rivals are increasingly adding lucrative content that used to be prime selling points for Netflix.
Nearly all of Disney’s Marvel shows and movies will be on Disney+ instead of Netflix. Top sitcoms “Friends” and “The Office” are set to each leave the Netflix platform in the next two years and be available on HBO Max and Peacock, respectively.
Netflix did fight back though, winning the streaming rights to “Seinfeld.”
With all that in mind, it will be extremely important for Netfix to prove to Wall Street that its second-quarter weakness, which the company blamed on a weaker content slate and a price increase in the United States, was an aberration and not the start of a new alarming trend.
’Stranger Things’ boost in the third quarter?
There are hopes that Netflix might be able to get back on track. The company likely benefited from the third season of “Stranger Things” during the quarter. The 80s themed sci-fi hit debuted to a lot of buzz on July 4 – and the company has already announced plans for a season four.
According to analysts’ consensus forecasts, Netflix likely added 757,000 US streaming subscribers and 6.1 million new international users in the July-September quarter.
The fourth quarter could be even better. Heath Terry of Goldman Sachs said in a recent report that its holiday season programming was “unprecedented” and “has the potential to insulate the business from competitive launches.”
Terry noted that Netflix is becoming a bigger player in the original movie business, pointing out that Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” and the “Breaking Bad” sequel film “El Camino” may help lure new users.
Netflix also has several hit shows returning in the fourth quarter, most notably “The Crown,” “The Kominsky Method” and “Peaky Blinders.”
Stock could be primed for a rebound
Still, analysts seem confused about what’s next for the stock. A dozen Wall Street analysts have slashed their price target on Netflix within the past week.
But of those twelve, seven of them still have a price target of at least $400 a share – which is more than 40% above the current stock price. Two other analysts boosted their price targets Monday to $420 and $425 – 50% higher than current levels.
And while some argue that Netflix is spending too much on original programming and needs more big hits, Richard Greenfiield of LightShed Partners, argues that the company is doing just fine.
“Netflix is no longer about one or two key shows; rather, it has literally become what you do every night,” Greenfield said in a report, adding that “it is effectively a modern day cure for boredom, the way turning on your TV to watch cable TV used to be.”
“There is so much content on Netflix that you literally never run out of content to watch,” he concluded.
That may be true. But the question for investors is whether or not Netflix can attract new subscribers as the streaming wars heat up. After all, Netflix isn’t making money off of advertising. The company has to keep adding more paying customers to justify its stock price.