Last year, Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings could have used a Super Bowl ad to apologize for splitting DVD and streaming services, jacking up prices, chasing away subscribers, driving down the company's share price and losing partners such as Liberty Media's Starz.
This year, he can point to revenue that's up 8% from last year, more than 2 million net streaming members added in the past quarter alone, exclusive content deals with Disney (DIS) and Time Warner (TWX) and new content such as David Fincher's House of Cards and the revived Fox series Arrested Development coming to his streaming service this year. With all that good news, why put out a Super Bowl ad?Because it may not last. As our Rocco Pendola notes, Netflix's content deals have put the company in debt up to its streaming-video-fried eyeballs. Sure, it has a stranglehold on streamed children's television content and accounts 33% of prime-time Web viewing based on Internet traffic, according to Sandvine's "Global Internet Phenomena Report. But it's tough to make that last when you have $5 billion in debt, with nearly half of it due immediately. Netflix needs to build its lead and stockpile capital. It can't hold on to that $7.99-a-month, all-you-can-stream pricing structure forever if its wants to make more blockbuster content deals. If it doesn't show current users and potential converts its value soon, it'll face a much different challenge than it did in 2011. It's one thing to turn off customers with a price hike in an open market. It's another to do so when Carl Icahn has a 10% stake in your company and competitors such as Redbox, Hulu, HBO Go and Amazon (AMZN) are closing in. Speaking of Amazon ...
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