It’s not fashionable to love netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) as an investment right now. The company posted slightly disappointing subscriber numbers in the fourth quarter of 2021, coupled with a historically low forecast for next quarter subscriber growth. Netflix shares have fallen 20% since that unpleasant earnings report, and dozens of critics are coming out of the woodwork.
And I’m just torn between buying more Netflix stock while it’s on fire, or writing about it for your benefit, dear reader. Our ironclad disclosure policies do not allow me to do both at the same time.
Well, you win again. If I could only own one stock, it would be Netflix. I’m just keeping my existing Netflix investment for now so I can tell you why I’m so excited about this company and its stock. One of these days I’ll put the pen down long enough to buy more stocks.
Laser-like customer focus sets the stage for long-term success
No one treats the viewer like Netflix. This has always been true, since the early days of red DVD shippers.
At the time, Netflix was scrapping late fees and going to the video store, replacing those experiences with a point-and-click online video queue and flat-rate service to your mailbox. Your local Blockbuster store or Movie Gallery could never match Netflix’s massive selection, and companies that have tried to copy Netflix’s unique business model have consistently failed in this task. Old fashioned video channels could never focus on excellent viewing experience provided by Netflix. They had outdated business models to defend, after all.
The shift to digital video streams continued the same general theme. Netflix provides a clutter-free video streaming platform across all your favorite devices, with no banner ads or ad rolls between videos to distract you. The company continues to come up with new ways to get you the content you want to watch next, as easily as possible. A wealth of collected user data helps the Netflix interface bring interesting shows and movies to your screen.
There’s more competition than ever in the digital video industry, but no one is even trying to do exactly what Netflix does. For example, Amazon.co.uk (NASDAQ:AMZN) insists on urging you to buy digital downloads or paper Blu-ray discs at every turn, and the Amazon Prime Video interface is full of ads. At waltz disney it is (NYSE: DIS) age-old Hulu service, you have to pay extra for an ad-free viewing experience and even then, “a few excluded shows play with ads.” Netflix’s rivals just don’t go that far with their customer focus.
Bend with the unstoppable wind of change
It’s the not-so-secret sauce behind Netflix’s winning ways. If you build a fantastic entertainment platform, customers will come. And when the environment changes, as it did when broadband connections and video-enabled computers became commonplace a decade ago, the company shouldn’t double down on the business model that worked on the old Marlet.
Management could have handled the digital leap better, and the Qwikster debacle will forever be a stain on Netflix history. But the general idea of making DVD shippers a rarely seen side gig to a global media streaming empire has always been correct. Most media companies would have done the exact opposite, trying to stretch the previous business idea as long as possible – while some smaller, hungrier upstarts are getting ready to eat their lunch.
… and it’s also on sale?
Here. Netflix puts the customer first and business results will follow. Its original content dominates award show season these days, and it’s hard to find a video service with a more diverse content portfolio. No matter what niche you’re in, Netflix wants to have a few shows and movies for exactly that taste. The start-up period is over and sustainable cash benefits are expected to arrive over the next few decades. Cable and broadcast television still accounts for about 90% of viewing hours in the United States, which is Netflix’s oldest and most mature market. The company sees a huge opportunity for growth in user engagement, which should also translate into increased bottom line results.
Meanwhile, many investors lost their temper when Netflix predicted that the next quarter should see just 2.5 million net new subscribers worldwide. Market uncertainty related to the coronavirus crisis continues to cloud the waters. But it’s just a little speed bump on a long road, soon to be remembered as nothing more than an incredible buying window.
Let me put it like this. An increase in subscribers in the first quarter matching the pace of 4 million additions in the previous year would bring Netflix’s total membership to 225.8 million at the end of March. As things stand, management forecasts stop at 224.3 million. That’s just below a 0.7% slowdown, when viewed through a wide-angle lens. Still, this forgettable little miss slapped a 20% off Netflix stock sticker. I like silly overreactions because they offer inviting buying opportunities for us long-term investors.
This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a high-end advice service Motley Fool. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and wealthier.