Netflix may dominate streaming video today, but whether it can do so indefinitely is very much a matter of debate.
IAC (IAC) chairman Barry Diller declared on Wednesday that Netflix has already won the streaming wars, telling CNBC that no other service will be able to compete on gross subscribers. Netflix shares were roughly flat on Wednesday and are up 42% this year.
"I believe they have won the game," Diller said. "There's nothing I can see that's going to dislodge them."
At nearly 150 million subscribers globally and with a huge catalogue of films and shows, Netflix (NFLX) has a large head start compared to competitors -- most of whom haven't even launched yet. In addition to Amazon's (AMZN) Prime Video service and Disney-owned Hulu, new streaming services from Disney (DIS) and Apple (AAPL) are scheduled to launch later this year, while AT&T's (T) WarnerMedia's HBO Max is launching in 2020.
Not everyone agrees with Diller's take, however. On Tuesday, WarnerMedia announced that HBO Max will become the exclusive home for the Friends catalogue, removing it from Netflix's library.
That doesn't bode well for Netflix, Rosenblatt Securities analyst Mark Zgutowicz wrote on Wednesday. Friends accounted for almost 2% of Netflix's total viewing hours in 2018 according to Zgutowicz; The Office accounted for 3%. The pair represent the two most-watched shows on Netflix by viewing time.
"As more streaming services launch, NFLX is going to continue to lose its highest quality licensed content making the success of their own content increasingly important," he said. The absence of staple comedy programs like Friends thus creates more pressure for comedy specials and originals, which may not drive as many new gross subscribers, to be successful.
Media analysts generally believe that there will be room for multiple streaming services in the average household, with many predicting that most households will subscribe to three streaming services in total.
Netflix is scheduled to report its second-quarter earnings after the market close on Wednesday, July 17.