NEW YORK — President Frank Underwood made a triumphant return on Friday.
The eagerly awaited fourth season of “House of Cards” is now streaming on Netflix. (No spoiler alerts please!)
But Netflix’s stock is also enjoying an Underwood-esque surge. The stock was up nearly 4% on Friday and traded above $100 for the first time since late January.
Shares have soared more than 25% since briefly dipping below $80 on February 9.
So what’s next for Netflix? After all, this was the best-performing stock in the S&P 500 last year. It more than doubled.
The company wowed investors earlier this year with rosy guidance about subscriber growth. And the company has rapidly expanded to just about every market around the world except China.
There is no longer any doubt that Netflix is a serious force in Hollywood. Even though the company doesn’t have traditional ratings for its TV shows, Netflix generates significant water cooler (and social media) buzz. It’s winning Emmys and Golden Globes.
And it’s done it with a diverse lineup of shows.
“House of Cards” is arguably still the most famous of Netflix’s original programs. It put Netflix on the map like “Mad Men” did for AMC and “The Sopranos” did for HBO. (HBO is owned by CNNMoney parent Time Warner.)
But “House of Cards” may not even be the most anticipated return on Netflix this month. It might be season 2 of “Daredevil” — the superhero show based on the Marvel comic. It’s back on March 18.
You used to be able to count the number of Netflix hits on one hand. Now you need both — as well as your feet. “Orange is the New Black.” “Narcos.” “Bloodline.” “Jessica Jones.” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” The list goes on and on.
And Netflix has also found success by resurrecting older shows. It did that with “Arrested Development.” Most recently, it launched “Fuller House” — which reunites the Tanner family from the 90s sitcom. A “Gilmore Girls” revival is next.
It’s even brought back two of my favorite 80s cartoons — “Inspector Gadget” and “Danger Mouse” — and is working with DreamWorks Animation on another … “Voltron!”
I fully expect to see Netflix streaming “The Bigger Bang Theory” sometime in 2038 — probably to Oculus headsets in glorious 32K resolution on a 9G network brought to us by AppleComcastVerizonDisney.
Yes, Netflix is still an insanely (some might even say obscenely) valued stock, trading at 390 times this year’s earnings estimates.
But Wall Street doesn’t care about earnings or even revenue right now. It’s all, for better or for worse, about subscribers.
Netflix reported last month that it now has more than 75 million subscribers worldwide. Analysts think the company could hit 82 million subscribers by the first quarter … and finish 2016 with 96 million.
By 2018, Wall Street is predicting a subscriber count of nearly 140 million. That is astonishing growth that should help lift sales — and yes, even earnings — by a significant amount over the next few years.
Does this mean Netflix shares will double again this year? Of course not. It’s unreasonable to expect the stock to ever do that again given how big the company is now.
And shares are still in a hole for 2016, down 12% despite its recent rally. Netflix will probably remain a very volatile stock.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if it fully recovers and goes on to beat the broader market.
Just like Kevin Spacey’s Machiavellian inhabitant of the Oval Office, it could be a mistake to underestimate Netflix over the long haul. Knock knock!