Netflix shares edged higher today after a big upgrade from analysts at William Blair following the results of their proprietary survey. They see the potential for about 50% upside to Netflix stock, although they note that price increases have increased volatility for the shares, which have sold off by about 10%, on average, following increases.
Netflix upgraded to Outperform
In a report dated August 24, analyst Ralph Schackart highlighted the video streaming company’s advantages in original content. He upgraded Netflix stock to Outperform with a base case price target of $145 per share. Their bear case target stands at $110 per share, while their bull case rises to $185. Despite the volatility that often follows price target increases, they like the long-term risk/ reward profile of the stock.
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One big reason for their upgrade is their recent survey, which suggested that Wall Street is underappreciating the Millennial demographic shift in relation to Netflix’s ability to reach its long-term domestic subscriber target, which stands at 60 million to 90 million. Schackart and team believe that the company’s audience of more than 70 million non-paying users, who mostly belong to the younger generation, will boost its subscriber numbers.
The reason is because these younger users will grow to ages when they will more likely pay for Netflix’s services. In other words, now they may be using Mom’s or Dad’s subscription, but when they age up and move out, at some point, they will probably pay for a subscription of their own.
Not as concerned about Netflix’s domestic subscriber numbers
The William Blair team explained that if the company can convert only 3% of the young audience to new subscribers per year, it could add 5.3 million domestic subscribers by 2020 – just through this demographic lift. They cite their recent survey for this projection, as their survey focuses on discerning which age groups are more likely to pay for a Netflix subscription. They found that the percentage of current subscribers paying for their own accounts rises by almost 60% between the 15 to 19 and 25 to 29 age groups.
As a result, Schackart and team sees room for upside to the consensus estimate of 2020 domestic subscribers, which stands at around 2 million subscriptions. Based on their build, which includes a “conversion effect” around the Millennial generation and growing over-the-air video adoption, they believe Netflix will be able to add 17.7 million net subscriptions by 2020, which stands approximately 17% higher than consensus.
Netflix’s original content wins big too
The William Blair team also said their “extensive benchmarking analysis” indicates that the company’s original content isn’t being fully appreciated either. They believe all the original content will increasingly set it apart from competitors. After looking at almost 600 review scores for original content across eight networks, they dubbed Netflix’s content “superior” to that offered by the networks in their sample, including HBO.
They report that Netflix has almost double the above-average original shows that are still releasing new content compared to the next network, including both HBO and Showtime.
Impact on Netflix from Olympics not as bad as feared
In an August 25 report, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali also noted something interesting, which was that the ratings for the 2016 Olympics were pretty “underwhelming.” This could be a positive for Netflix because the company had warned on its last earnings call that subscription numbers might be weak around the time of the Olympics. Because viewership was lower this year compared to where it was four years ago, they posit that the event wasn’t as much of a headwind for Netflix as the company had feared it would be.
Another good positive is that Google Trends data suggests that the frenzy around the un-grandfathering of plans at Netflix appears to be dying down, which should help things calm down. Further, the exclusive Disney PayTV movie deal begins in September, which should help boost subscribership for the streaming firm.
Shares of Netflix rose by as much as 2.43% to $97.48 during regular trading hours on Thursday.