While the world waits out the coronavirus storm, online streaming services have taken off–and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) stock has gone on a massive rally.
The cancellation of all sporting events across the globe has further boosted demand for online streaming services.
But Netflix’s rally could be short-lived as it slowly loses its top position in the online streaming market.
Netflix has seen a tremendous spike in visitors in recent weeks. In fact, the sharp rise forced the company to cut down traffic on network providers to reduce strain on their servers.
But the fact is, for Netflix, more traffic doesn’t translate to more money. The company charges a fixed monthly price of $9-$16 in the U.S. regardless of how many hours a user spends on the platform.
The traffic spike would have been profitable if it had an advertising-based model, but it doesn’t.
Netflix relies on strong subscriber growth to justify its lofty valuation. The subscriber growth count was already showing signs of weakening in 2019 and that trend is expected to continue with the arrival of new competition.
Netflix had gained all its market share by pricing out Blockbuster Video in the past. Netflix simply had deeper pockets, and Blockbuster Video was a dinosaur company that soon went bankrupt.
This time, Netflix’s competitors have much deeper pockets. Players like Disney Plus, Apple and Amazon can afford to subsidize the online streaming business thanks to profits from other business segments.
The timely arrival of big competitors will put more downward pressure on subscriber growth.
Netflix’s growth has been driven by debt-fueled acquisition of new content. The company’s debt has been ever-increasing and now stands at a whopping $14.8 billion .
The company’s $5 billion in cash on hand won’t be enough as it had planned to spend $17 billion on content in 2020 alone.
To increase profits, Netflix has been perpetually increasing subscription costs. But with new players entering the market, the company can only raise rates so far.
The only way Netflix can clean up its balance sheet is by doing a capital raise that will dilute current shareholders. The market is yet to price in the fact that Netflix can’t service its debt without raising money.
Instead, the market seems to believe that the increase in traffic during the coronavirus-induced lockdown will benefit the company. But the earnings reports in the quarters to come will shatter that illusion and send the stock tanking.