Now Netflix has run up to $360 a share, having popped 5% on Wednesday following the streaming giant's impressive third quarter results. And this still might be a moment to buy. Barclays analysts raised their price target to $430 a share Wednesday, citing momentum and continued pricing power.
The market lost much of its confidence in Netflix after it missed subscriber growth numbers and slashed guidance in its second-quarter report. But Netflix seems to have proven, at least for the moment, that it's still on the growth path many had expected. Netflix added 6.96 million subscribers in the third quarter, significantly more than the 5 million it had guided for, on the back of very strong international growth.
It further guided that the seasonally strong fourth quarter will see an addition of 9.4 million subscribers, 23% higher than Wall Street's consensus, and above Barclay's bullish estimate of 8.1 million new subs.
For Barclays analysts, it wasn't just the addition of subscribers that led to their optimism, but pricing. "This beat and raise was despite a ~11% increase in average selling prices, which shows the degree of pricing power the model still retains," the analysts wrote in a note. Add in the better-than-expected Q4 guidance, and "any doubt about Netflix's momentum should be assuaged given the guide," the analysts wrote.
Still, as many investors might expect, there are both long-term and short-term risks to investing in Netflix. Longer-term, Netflix's real risk is its price-to-earnings multiple of 164. Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) - Get Report , which has competitive moats around many businesses trades at a lower (although still lofty) multiple of 145, while Netflix is reliant solely on streaming revenue to deliver earnings. "It's hard for me to justify paying more for Netflix than I would for Amazon," said Zev Fima, research analyst for Jim Cramer's Action Alert Plus Portfolio. Fima noted that Amazon has a "much more diverse revenue stream that plays to everything from e-commerce to advertising to the public cloud and soon healthcare."
Shorter-term, Netflix's fourth quarter may not look so good. Sure, the company guided for what seems like a terrific quarter, especially from a subscriber growth standpoint. But what matters in the end is the net inflow of dollars and cents to the company. TheStreet's trading expert, Stephen Guilfoyle, noted that part of Netflix's impressive third-quarter beat was attributable to moving some of its marketing spend to the fourth quarter. With those added expenses, Q4 earnings could look less impressive to end the year.
Including Wednesday's gains, Netflix is up almost 90% so far this year.