Netflix may be one of the biggest streaming services but it may also be bleeding money according to a new report.
On Monday, Los Angeles Times revealed that Netflix is spending so much money on original content and that has resulted in a $20.54 billion debt.
Netflix has since denied the severity of their debt in a statement obtained by ET Canada: “The LA Times story inaccurately calculates our debt as $20 billion by counting our streaming obligations (i.e. our content contracts with studios) of $15.7 billion as debt, which it isn’t. The correct number: we have total gross debt of $4.8 billion vs. our equity market value of about $75 billion. LA Times has corrected the story. For more context, the $15.7 billion accounts for future content expenses that roll through the income statement over time. Every broadcaster, cable network and streamer that has licensing agreements uses the same structure. As a point of reference, Disney/ESPN has $49 billion in similar commitments for sports contracts.”
That spending isn’t going to end anytime soon. In 2017, Netflix is expected to spend another $6 billion on original content with new original movies and series to stream.
According to the report, Netflix is aware of the debt and expects “to be free-cash-flow negative for many years.”
Investors aren’t too worried about the large sum of debt since Netflix continues to build on subscribers: 104 million subscribers use the streaming service to watch shows like “Orange Is The New Black” and “House of Cards”, which is up 25 per cent from 2016.
“I think they’re going to need some luck in not drowning in debt in the ultimate slowdown of growth,” media consultant Mike Vorhaus warned about Netflix’s future.
“That’s a lot of capital up front, and then you get a payout over many years. The irony is the faster that we grow and the faster we grow the owned originals, the more drawn on free cash flow that we’ll be,” Chief Executive Reed Hastings said.
A big part of their spending is licensing fees for original TV and movies that are from other studios. Shows like “The Crown” and “Iron Fist” are from other studios, like Sony Pictures Television and Marvel, and the streaming service puts its name on it.
Despite reports of the streaming service’s massive debt and over-spending, according to a July 2017 Q2 letter to shareholders, Netflix experienced a huge growth in memberships.
“Our streaming membership grew more than expected, from 99 million to 104 million, due to our amazing content. We also crossed the symbolic milestones of 100 milliom members and more international than domestic members. It was a good quarter.”