“We recognize we are making huge cash investments in content”
Video streaming juggernaut Netflix, fresh off the back of projection-smashing audience growth numbers in Q3, says it plans to tap debt markets with a $2 billion bond issuance denominated in a mix of dollars and euros.
The company said it will use the unsecured debt for “general corporate purposes” which may include funding content acquisitions and potentially M&A moves.
Yet the bond issuance raises anew the challenges of securing a strong business model amid the need for expensive content production in the face of challenges from rival “big tech” firms, which are pushing into Netflix’s space.
The company has been ratcheting up spending on content production as it seeks to maximise customer base around the world (“people have very diverse tastes that we seek to satisfy”) and secured 112 Emmy nominations this year.
Netflix’s debt-fuelled content spree has already left some analysts troubled however. Free cash flow remains deeply negative: the company expects a free cash flow loss between $3 billion and $4 billion this year.
It expects operating margin to fall to just 4.9% in Q4.
In a quarterly letter to shareholders, the company warned of growing competition from rival companies: “We compete for entertainment time with linear TV, YouTube, video gaming, web browsing, social media, DVD and PPV, and more. In that competition for screen hours, we lose most of the time, but we win enough to keep growing.”
More Netflix Content = More Netflix Debt
Netflix added: “As internet entertainment grows, more companies see the large opportunity. Content companies such as WarnerMedia and Disney/Fox are moving to self-distribute their own content; tech firms like Apple, Amazon and others are investing in premium content to enhance their distribution platforms.”
“Amid these massive competitors on both sides, plus traditional media firms, our job is to make Netflix stand out so that when consumers have free time, they choose to spend it with our service,” Netflix said.
The company concluded in the Q3 letter: “We recognize we are making huge cash investments in content, and we want to assure our investors that we have the same high confidence in the underlying economics as our cash investments in the past. These investments we see as very likely to help us to keep our revenue and operating profits growing for a very long time ahead.”
With regard to the Netflix debt issuance announced today: “The interest rate, redemption provisions, maturity date and other terms of each series of Notes will be determined by negotiations between Netflix and the initial purchasers”, the company said.