The business of streaming media has changed the world of entertainment forever. When Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) first started mailing DVD titles around, it was the beginning of the end for Blockbuster. Netflix migrated to a streaming model and cable companies had begun offering more and more titles in their library of on-demand movies included in the subscription price. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Since that time, Netflix saw its shares rise from under $25 to a peak of about $390 in mid-2018.
In the world theme of “nothing lasts forever,” now it’s Netflix that is being cornered. It’s probably not fair to draw any conclusion that Netflix is a bankruptcy risk like Blockbuster, but here is what is a fair challenge: Netflix has competition on all angles of its business, and the company has been criticized for its insatiable appetite of producing high-cost content by making its own series features and its own movies to lure customers in.
Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) is set to launch its own streaming service, Disney+, on November 12, and there will be no more Disney content on Netflix. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has its own Apple service coming out in November as well. Other services, such as Roku, YouTube, Amazon and myriad in-house over-the-top efforts by networks and cable companies, pose a threat. It’s no wonder that Netflix shares are still down more than $100 from the peak.
Analysts have been downgrading their ratings or target prices on Netflix for quite some time now. Two of Netflix’s top bulls have just lowered expectations for the leader, and this follows a slew of other target cuts and downgrades.
Among Thursday’s top analyst upgrades and downgrades, Goldman Sachs analyst Heath Terry maintained a Buy rating, but the call also came with a lowered price target, to $360 from $420. The firm still sees subscriber growth in-line with expectations but with caveats.
UBS also joined in on the cuts on Thursday, with the firm’s Eric Sheridan lowering his target to $370 from $420 while maintaining his Buy rating. The UBS call came with a lower estimate of third-quarter international sign-ups, down to 5.6 million from the company’s guidance of 6.2 million international subscribers. Sheridan also noted that Netflix might need to show a few quarters of strength to rebuild investor confidence.
With Netflix shares having risen from $240 at the start of 2019 to just over $380 in May and again in July, Netflix shares have slid to a low of under $260 before basing out in September. Here are the target cuts and dates of the recent Netflix analyst downgrades:
- October 9: Rosenblatt maintained Neutral and cut target to $265 from $330.
- October 9: Monnes Crespi & Hardt maintained Buy but cut target to $340 from $440.
- October 9: Aegis Capital maintained Hold and cut target to $275 from $310.
- October 7: Evercore ISI maintained In-Line and cut target to $300 from $380.
- September 24: Pivotal Research maintained Buy but cut target to $350 from $515.
- August 29: Imperial Capital maintained Outperform but target lowered to $451 from $458.
After the post-earnings drop in July, firms such as Citigroup, Credit Suisse, BMO Capital Markets, Nomura/Instinet, Raymond James and others lowered their target prices.
Shares of Netflix are back up above the red line for performance in 2019, and the stock was up 4.8% at $280.48 on Thursday. Maybe the investment community was just glad to see that two of the remaining top bullish targets being cut still came with Buy ratings.
Netflix remains a high-beta stock. Even after coming down this far from its highs, and even if it is valued where the shares had bottomed out in September, that is at about 82 times expected 2019 earnings and at almost 50 times expected 2020 earnings.
Netflix has a 52-week trading range of $231.23 to $385.99, and its consensus analyst target price was $373.63.