Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) shares haven’t stopped rising for most of that past five years and are up 1,130% over the period. The company now has a market cap of $141 billion, more than those of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE: TWX) and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NYSE: FOXA) combined.
The market cap is based on promise and not revenue. In 2017, Netflix posted revenue of $11.7 billion and net income of $559 million. Time Warner’s revenue for the same period was $31.3 billion. Its net income was $5.2 billion. Fox has revenue of $28.5 billion in its most recent fiscal year, while its net income was $3.3 billion.
So, again, Netflix’s market cap is based on promise and not on recent numbers. The $141 billion value assumes that the new order already has eclipsed the old in entertainment and its delivery. Given the Netflix subscriber base, that may be true.
Netflix had 119 million subscribers at the end of last year. That makes it the world’s largest streaming network, by far. It has had to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in content as part of the drive to that level. Some investors believe the investments drive huge losses. How can outsiders determine how many people subscribe to Netflix based on original content?
And Netflix has competition that could injure it outside of traditional media. These include Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Each has huge distribution networks, brands and capital enough to be fierce and dangerous rivals.
Fox, Time Warner and other old world media have not given up on battling Netflix. Most already have unbundled offerings that do not force people to buy cable packages to access their content. Among the major initiatives is Time Warner’s HBO Go. Fox and Walt Disney will soon launch networks based on the same kind of platform. The HBO Go package subscription costs $14.99 a month without a cable TV package. The Netflix price is $10.99. There will soon be enough companies in the cord-cutting entertainment business that a price war is nearly inevitable.
Netflix’s market cap has started to eclipse its much older rivals. The investment in the company, however, carries a number of risks. Among them is that the companies Netflix has bitten are about to bite back.