Netflix Will No Longer Borrow, Ending Its Run of Debt

Netflix has reached a monetary milestone: It now not must borrow cash.

Netflix introduced Tuesday in its fourth-quarter earnings report that it will “now not have a necessity to lift exterior financing for our day-to-day operations,” a major transfer for the closely indebted firm.

In lower than a decade, the streaming large borrowed over $16 billion to feed its titanic urge for food for content material. The explanation: It didn’t make enough money to cowl each its leisure productions and its enterprise prices, like payroll and lease and advertising.

Reed Hastings, Netflix’s co-chief govt and co-founder, anticipated Hollywood would quickly catch up within the streaming market, and the corporate stockpiled content material as rapidly as attainable. To finance the hefty licensing and manufacturing prices, it borrowed the cash. And saved borrowing.

The danger was clear: If Netflix didn’t generate sufficient money by the point the money owed got here due, it will be in deep trouble. Mr. Hastings was betting the corporate might entice subscribers (and lift its costs) quicker than the debt clock was ticking. (Netflix was shocked that Hollywood waited years to leap into digital tv, giving it a fair larger lead.)

That truth has been a longstanding gripe over Netflix’s enterprise mannequin and it’s why some observers have lengthy argued that Netflix is a debt-ridden home of playing cards that may ultimately come tumbling down.

However the gambit appears to have labored. The corporate nonetheless has a ton of debt, but it surely mentioned it now made sufficient income to pay again these loans whereas sustaining its immense content material funds. The corporate additionally mentioned it will contemplate shopping for again some inventory, serving to to elevate the worth of its shares.

Netflix mentioned it added 8.5 million clients within the fourth quarter, for a complete of 203.6 million paying subscribers by the top of final yr, because the coronavirus pandemic fueled a surge in streaming providers. Netflix anticipates including six million subscribers within the first three months of this yr.

The corporate made $542 million in revenue on $6.64 billion in gross sales within the fourth quarter. Traders had been anticipating $625 million in revenue and $6.6 billion in income, based on S&P Capital IQ.

All of the debt Netflix gathered allowed it to flex its film slate for 2021, when it plans to launch 70 new motion pictures, a couple of new movie each week. The lineup options stars that may rival any Hollywood studio, together with Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Dwayne Johnson, Idris Elba, Zendaya, Jennifer Lawrence, Gal Gadot, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer.

There are nonetheless dangers to Netflix’s cash-fueled alleyway to streaming dominance. Hollywood has lastly caught up, and far bigger firms just like the Walt Disney Firm, with Disney+, and AT&T, with HBO Max, at the moment are making massive bets on streaming, giving shoppers extra selections and threatening Netflix’s market share.

The persevering with look of latest rivals, with ViacomCBS’s Paramount+ set to reach on March 4, and the continued energy of Amazon Prime Video and Hulu has impressed a raft of “switching,” a observe the place shoppers flip numerous streaming providers on and off month to month. After watching their favourite reveals on one service, extra persons are canceling after which subscribing to a special service, based on a study by the consulting agency Deloitte.

The survey present in January 2020 that 20 p.c of those that paid for a streaming service had canceled it inside the earlier yr. However by October, as new providers got here to life, nearly half, or 46 p.c, had canceled at the least one of many providers within the final six months.

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