Fantasy Netflix M&A

Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings
Netflix co-C.E.O.s Ted Sarandos and Reed Hastings. Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty Images
William D. Cohan
July 20, 2022

Now that Netflix’s much anticipated second-quarter earnings report is done and dusted—nearly one million subscribers lost instead of the projected attrition of two million—it’s as good a moment as any to speculate on the company’s future. Will it remain an independent publicly traded entity or get bought by a larger rival in what surely would be one of the largest blockbuster M&A deals of the era? 

The former hypothetical once seemed unfathomable, of course. But the specter of the possibility has percolated as a result not only of Netflix’s recent market vulnerability, but also its just-announced partnership with Microsoft, whose Xander technology platform will support its forthcoming ad-based tier. (Xander, once the brainchild of Randall Stephenson and John Stankey at AT&T, was orphaned off to Microsoft when the telecom divested its media assets, most notably Direct TV and WarnerMedia.) After all, Netflix is the only pure play in the newly repriced streaming market, outside of Hulu, which will likely be folded into Disney and the Disney bundle soon enough. Netflix’s repriced market capitalization is around $90 billion, and so it’s competing with companies worth ten to 25 times that amount with cash reserves in the tens, if not hundreds, of billions. These are fascinating times, indeed.