Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) investors felt some real pressure on Monday after reports have come out that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has held talks with Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ: AAPL) over a new streaming television and media distribution platform. The reality is that competition against Netflix is not really a new concept. However, one issue should stand out more than any other – rather than trying to compete with Netflix on a slow trajectory, Apple should just write a big check and acquire Netflix.
After the Wall Street Journal reported about Apple and Comcast speaking, it seems odd that 1) Comcast would share in its subscription fees and 2) that Apple would want that model. If that is what Apple wants, Apple should almost without question just lock this up entirely by acquiring Netflix rather than go create a decade long battle over market share.
The first thing to consider is that Netflix has the new arrangement to pay Comcast for a faster delivery service. Apple could assume the same deal for the same terms on a prorated basis.
Now consider this, Apple has absolutely dominated online music via iTunes – but you will be hard pressed to call Apple TV a grand commercial success with consumers. Tim Cook revealed earlier in 2014 that Apple TV brought in $1 billion in revenues for Apple in 2013, but that not even 1% of Apple’s total revenue. Without a penny of hardware sales, Netflix generated some $4.74 billion in revenue in 2013. Thomson Reuters is projecting that Netflix sales will be almost $5.4 billion in 2014 and just over $6.4 billion in 2015.
There is also the equalizing notion that Netflix trades at a nosebleed earnings multiple (90-times this year’s estimates and 50-times next year’s estimate). Its market cap is also still $22.5 billion, even after close to a 7% pullback. These numbers may be too high of multiples for any other firm besides Apple to chase, but merging Netflix and Apple would create a media powerhouse in the film and movie industry that has not been seen to date.
A last issue that would come up in Apple’s favor is that the movie industry might not be able to press back against Apple as hard nor be able to charge as much for content as it does with Netflix. Apple is just better entrenched and it has built a foothold in laptops, desktops, and with the iPad. This might suddenly make Netflix far more profitable ahead.
You may have noticed that Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has been avoided here the entire time in this argument. If Apple were to buy Netflix, Tim Cook would be in a better driving position compared to today against Jeff Bezos. Amazon is becoming the retailer of anything and everything online (including media).
If Apple is not interested in acquiring Netflix, perhaps Amazon would be. The same arguments made for Apple would be similar to Amazon except for one small detail – Amazon can only use its inflated stock to acquire the company without a huge secondary offering or a huge debt offering. Apple has close to $160 billion in cash and securities parked around the world that it can tap into.
Or what about Larry and Sergey at Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG)? Google has the Chromecast TV service, and this combined with YouTube would make a powerful media competitor. The leader of search has close to $60 billion in cash. Google also has its effort on Google Play gift cards for sale for music, movies, books, apps and more.
If Tim Cook wants to partner up with Comcast, he can do it on the cheap in this manner of a partnership. That will take years before anything great is seen by Apple shareholders. However, if Tim Cook wants to be a transformative CEO he could use half a year’s worth of Apple’s profits to buy Netflix outright and capture some 44 million members across many different systems outside of just Apple.
One final issue needs to be brought up – deal proposals of this sort are generally only proposed during really good times and in bull markets. Netflix shares closed down 6.6% at $378.90 on Monday, against a 52-week range of $159.00 to $458.00.
So, tell us what you think in an anonymous poll.