UPDATED: For a few hours Thursday, Netflix was the world’s most valuable media company, after its stock rallied again Thursday to record highs — pushing the video-streaming leader’s market capitalization past media giant Disney for the first time.
But by the end of the day, Disney’s shares had recovered enough to nudge its market cap back up ahead of Netflix.
Shares of Netflix closed up 1.3% for the day, to $349.29 per share. That gives the company a market cap of $151.8 billion. Year to date, Netflix shares now have increased 82% in value.
Disney’s stock fell 0.8% in trading Thursday, to close at $102.11 per share, yielding a market cap of $152.2 billion.
On Wednesday, Netflix’s market cap surpassed that of Comcast, the cable and media giant that’s poised to start a bidding war with Disney to acquire 21st Century Fox assets. Comcast shares closed down 0.8% on Thursday, giving it a market cap of $145.5 billion.
To be sure, Netflix’s market cap milestone is symbolic — reflecting the seemingly insatiable investor enthusiasm for the company’s growth prospects. In revenue terms, Netflix ($11.7 billion in 2017 revenue) is far smaller than Disney ($55.1 billion for the year ended Sept. 30, 2017) or Comcast ($84.5 billion last year). And it’s worth noting that Netflix remains well below the market caps of its so-called “FAANG” peers: Facebook ($538 billion), Apple ($925 billion), Amazon ($778 billion) and Google/Alphabet ($750 billion).
The run-up in Netflix stock calls to mind CEO Reed Hastings’ warning five years ago about irrational exuberance amid volatile swings in the company’s stock price at the time: “In calendar year 2003 we were the highest performing stock on Nasdaq. We had solid results compounded by momentum-investor-fueled euphoria. Some of the euphoria today feels like 2003,” he wrote in an October 2013 letter to investors.
Defying skeptics, Netflix has continued to sustain a high rate of growth worldwide. It beat expectations for subscriber additions for the first quarter of 2018 both in the U.S. and abroad, to stand at 125 million worldwide.
For Q1, Netflix reported $3.7 billion in revenue, up 40% year over year, and net income of $290 million, up 63%. Significantly, the company kept on growing its sub base despite rate increases in the U.S. and other territories that rolled out widely in Q4 2017.
At the same time, Netflix is burning through tons of cash as it spends an ever-increasing amount on original content for its global audience — and it expects the business to be free-cash-flow negative for the next few years.
The company will spend upwards of $8 billion on content in 2018, with 85% of new spending being poured into original programming, according to chief content officer Ted Sarandos. Netflix expects to have around 1,000 original TV shows, movies, specials and other programming on its service by year-end.
Last month, the company closed a $1.9 billion round of debt financing, its biggest to date, to fuel its content binge-spending.
Pictured above: Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings