Will Goldman Sachs Screw Netflix Shareholders Again?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Hey, here's the biggest lie I have ever told: Netflix ( NFLX) invented binge viewing. What a load of soap and water that cleans hogs.

But, listen, this is not new with Netflix. Reed Hastings has been reinventing the rhetorical art of smoke and mirrors. Not only can Hastings talk jive with the best of them, but he manages to hypnotize what I think are otherwise intelligent Wall Street analysts.

Let me take you on a walk down Train Wreck Lane.

Check out this headline from Business Insider:

Yep. March 15, 2011. Ingrid Chung was the analyst at Goldman "covering" NFLX.

Then, in July 2011, after NFLX's first big implosion, Chung remained bullish, via Barron's, with completely clueless predictions of a world-beating rebound.

Later that year, over at Seeking Alpha, I followed up in a post I called Searching for Ingrid Chung:
For example, has anybody heard from Ingrid Chung at Goldman Sachs? I asked her for an interview when Netflix was momo-ing its way to $300, but she refused, noting that her firm does not allow her to do interviews. After Netflix's disastrous Q2 and weak Q3 guidance in July, Chung waxed bullish, not only reiterating a buy rating and her $330 price target, but raising EPS estimates from 2011 through 2013.
Before you read this next sentence, call some family, friends or co-workers over to your computer screen, because there's nothing like sharing a laugh with others around the holidays. For 2012, Chung predicted Netflix would post EPS of $7.69.

And now, here we are, April 2012. New boss, same as the old boss at Goldman. Somebody named "Heath Terry" says, paraphrasing from TheStreet's coverage of the latest Goldman upgrade:
Analyst Heath Terry raised his price target to $184 from $125 but kept his "neutral" rating explaining that Netflix may benefit from increased distribution, an enhanced content library and larger international presence.


"As the ecosystem grows and Netflix's model evolves, we believe the addressable market of subscribers is better defined by the number of "connected consumers" than households," Terry wrote in his note. The Goldman Sachs analyst lowered his earnings estimate for the year ending 2013, moving to $1.12 per share from $1.41, but 2014 and 2015 estimates were raised significantly, moving to $3.72 and $6.07 per share, up from $2.62 and $3.81 per share, respectively.

Aside from Terry lowering 2013 estimates, this absolutely is 2011 all over again. Those sky-high EPS guesses for 2014 and 2015. Look the bleep out. While I can't disagree with the price target (as frequent readers of this column -- cheesy opinion writer line alert! -- I am bullish NFLX stock, bearish the company), I expect Terry to enter Goldman's hack analyst protection program alongside Chung sometime in the next 6 to 24 months.

It's not a matter of if NFLX implodes, it's a matter of -- barring something extraordinary and unforeseen -- when.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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