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Netflix Part Deux

Ajit Deshpande - - 0 Comments

We discussed back in July that despite Netflix’s announcements of strong growth in subscriber content consumption, the going in the long run would be tough for the company in the face of competition from larger players such as Amazon, Apple and Youtube. Well, Carl Icahn seems to have decided that the time is now ripe to ‘push’ Netflix to think more seriously about its current position in the marketplace and to start evaluating its strategic options. Mr. Icahn disclosed last week that he now owns almost 10% of Netflix, mostly in the form of September 2014 call options. Despite earlier conciliatory comments, Netflix now has shown its true intentions vis a vis Icahn, adopting a poison pill to add to its existing takeover defense provisions (inclusive of staggered board appointments).

So what should we expect from Netflix going forward? If the situation turns hostile, Icahn will probably need another couple years to get his shares and to elect his proxies elected to the board, so that’s probably also the extent of how long Netflix’s end game might last. While an acquisition by Google, Apple or Amazon might make strategic sense, each of these players probably has cheaper ways to acquire Netflix’s 30 million subscribers (Hulu’s 2M paying subscribers and $2B price tag suggest a per subscriber cost of up to $1,000). Rumors notwithstanding, Microsoft might actually gain the most from a potential acquisition of Netflix, getting both a pure consumer focused play as well as a recommendation engine rivaling the best.

A once high-flying company has now become more a symbol of consolidation in the tech sector. As the behemoths continue to add pieces to their competitive war-chests, M&A exits will become even likelier than IPOs, so it will be crucial for early stage entrepreneurs to actively plan for and be cognizant of likely M&A exit scenarios.

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