Why the Most Bullish Analyst Is Dialing Down Netflix

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Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) has fallen far in 2019, after seeing a meteoric rise over the past few years. This stock was one of the biggest winners in that time as part of the incredibly popular investment play, the FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google) stocks. Just as impressive as its rise was, Netflix is in a spectacular fall. While analysts are still positive on the stock they, are far more cautious on the streaming business.

In fact, Netflix’s biggest bull on the street has cut his price target by nearly one-third, citing concerns over a “slower path to profitability.” Pivotal Research reiterated a Buy rating and cut its price target to $350 from $515, still implying upside of 32% from the most recent closing price of $265.92.

This comes after both Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) have announced that they will be jumping into the streaming business as well. Apple and Disney each believe that they need to be major players in a crowded market dominated by Netflix and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Netflix has over 150 million subscribers worldwide, while Amazon has over 100 million via its Prime membership program.

Disney+ launches on November 11, and its library of videos is substantial. It includes Disney films and exclusive access to Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic, all brands Disney owns. The Marvel and Star Wars libraries contain some of the most successful movies in history, based on box office ticket sales. At a monthly price of $6.99, the service is priced well below Netflix and Amazon.

Separately, Apple will price at $4.99 a month, starting with a seven-day free trial, which puts it well below all its major competitors. It will launch on November 1. Apple does not have a library nearly as extensive as Disney’s. It will, however, have original programming, which includes content from a partnership with Oprah Winfrey.

Netflix has a base monthly price of $12.99 for its “standard” plan. The base monthly rate for Amazon Prime is $12.99, but that includes free shipping and special offers on some Amazon.com products.

Pivotal Research had this to say in its report:

In the end we remain long term bulls on the Netflix story and still think they win the global OTT race and ultimately generate substantial profitability. Our new forecasts imply they are going to respond to content cost acceleration by revving up their own content spend that will allow them to maintain their subscriber growth while pushing back profitability materially. In the end our view is that very few players can (or will) keep up with these spend levels and that ultimately this will be a 2-horse race (Netflix and Disney) where both horses can win, with Amazon on the periphery and there is a reasonable shot that AT&T will screw up HBO as a competitor.

Shares of Netflix traded down 4% to $255.21 on Tuesday, in a 52-week range of $231.23 to $386.80. The consensus price target is $386.90.

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