Something always seems to be a little weird when Netflix announces big news about itself — and today’s unveiling of its streaming deal with DreamWorks Animation is no exception. The news appeared to have been handed to The New York Times; it had the first story as well as interviews with executives from both companies. But that’s not the problem: What’s curious is why The Times felt confident enough to say that unnamed “analysts estimate (the deal) is worth $30 million per picture to DreamWorks.” Although there were no details to support that estimate, it quickly became perceived as a fact. For example, a Reuters story stated that the deal is “worth $30 million per picture to DreamWorks over a number of years.” If that’s true, then it’s a big deal; HBO currently pays the studio about $20M per picture. If the $30M figure for the Netflix deal is accurate, then Caris & Co analyst David Miller says his 2013 earnings estimate for DreamWorks “would therefore improve from $1.58 (per share) to $1.70.”
OK, so is it true? The companies don’t say: Many hours after the Times story ran, Netflix and DreamWorks jointly filed a press release that said “financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.” But some analysts find the $30M figure hard to believe. Susquehana Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov writes this morning that “we would be surprised if the terms for (DreamWorks Animation) are more favorable than those of their current deal with HBO. We think the change in pay TV partners was due to HBO shifting away from animation and not because (Netflix) offered significantly superior terms.” Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible also says that “it appears (DreamWorks) was kicked out of HBO and that (Netflix) was the buyer of last resort.”
Netflix Shares -9.6% In After-Market Trading Following Earnings Report; CEO Won’t Comment On DreamWorks Animation Talks
UPDATE, 3:25 PM: This is weird. It isn’t just that CEO Reed Hastings wouldn’t comment on the big story of the day — his talks to secure an exclusive streaming deal for DreamWorks Animation’s films. Netflix requires analysts to email their questions, so there was no opportunity for someone to ask a follow-up. Hastings simply says that “we’re always in talks with all of the different providers.” Ugh. As for the price change, Hastings says that although “we feel bad about having customers upset with us,” the company anticipated the widespread anger and still feels “great about the decision.” Netflix wasn’t looking specifically to raise consumer prices, he says. The company wanted to separate the U.S.-based DVD rental business from its global streaming-only business — the main focus now. “The pricing change was an outcome of that.” He says it will generate more revenue for the company by year’s end.
PREVIOUS, 1:27 PM: Looks like Netflix won’t escape unscathed from the 60% price hike for its combined DVD rental and online streaming service. CEO Reed Hastings says in a letter to shareholders that in Q3 “we will see only the negative impact of the pricing change,” with domestic subscriber net additions lower than in the same period last year. Also, revenues “will only grow slightly on a sequential basis.” Still, Hastings defends the price change saying that Q4 could be “our first billion-dollar revenue quarter, driven by strong U.S. performance.” Netflix says that in Q2 it generated $68M in net income, up 54.5% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $789M, up 51.7%. The profit figure, at $1.26 a share, solidly beat the $1.11 consensus among analysts who follow the company. But the revenue figure was light. Analysts expected nearly $792M.
UPDATE: Netflix Still In Deal-Making Mode; Beats Street Expectations for 1st-Q But Stock Price Dips In After-Market Trading
UPDATE: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in today’s earnings call says the company’s much-ballyhooed deal to license the original TV series House of Cards is merely a test — and a relatively modest one at that. “I don’t know if it’s anything we’d bet the farm on, but we’re willing to try it with a little bit of our budget,” he told Wall Street analysts. He said in a letter to shareholders that Netflix might make “two or three similar, but smaller, deals” to see whether “we can efficiently build a big audience for a well-produced serialized show.” He said, in his note, that the characterization of Netflix as “rerun TV” is “fundamentally correct.”
Hastings told analysts, though, that he was intrigued by the performance of Starz’ Spartacus, which was also available on Netflix. It “opened our eyes” to the possibility that a show might develop a bigger buzz, and more TV viewers, when it runs on the Web as well as conventional TV. Meanwhile, Hastings says that Netflix is “working hard” to offer its streamed content to Android-powered smartphones and tablet computers. “It’s a big priority for us.” As for the competition in Web-delivered video, Hastings says he’s as eager as anyone to see what his rivals have planned. “We really don’t know what Dish (Network) is up to” with its acquisition of Blockbuster,” he adds. “A big market attracts a lot of competition.”
PREVIOUS, 1:30 PM: Netflix continues to strengthen the sense of inevitability that it will become a must-have service for Web users who want to watch professionally produced entertainment. It said Monday that it ended the first quarter with a net profit of $60 million, up 88% vs. the same period last year, on revenues of $719 million, up 46%. That comes to $1.11 in earnings per share. In January the company told investors that revenue could go as high as $717 million while earnings would come in between 90 cents and $1.13 a share. Even though Netflix often beats its own guidance, analysts considered that ambitious: The consensus was $703.6 million and $1.08.
Most underestimated Netflix’s appeal to the fast-growing number of people watching movies and TV shows via broadband. It had 23.6 million global subscribers at the end of March, a gain of 3.6 million so far in 2011 and close to the 23.7 million at the top of the target range it set for itself in January. That makes Netflix the largest subscription entertainment service, surpassing Comcast’s 22.8 million subscribers and Sirius XM’s 20.2 million. Some 22.8 million of Netflix’s customers are in the U.S. Now the company says it expects to have as many as 25.9 global million subscribers at the end of June. It projects second quarter revenues of as much as $798 million, and earnings per share as high as $1.15.