Netflix Death Spiral: Don't Ignore Writing on the Wall

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- A handful of readers take exception to my ongoing -- company-related (remember I recommended the stock from $60) -- Netflix ( NFLX) bearishness. That strikes me kinda funny.

I guess they're just looking for some reason to believe.

Where I come from ( we come from the same place!), it's good journalism to actually talk to people in the industries you cover most closely, immerse yourself in the space and report back with well-researched findings, not mere regurgitations of company statements. Because that's what media coverage of Netflix boils down to. People repeating the things Reed Hastings says.

I guess It's not a lie, if you believe it.

But I don't believe it. I'm not going to stand here and lie just so people will like me. Plus, if you judge a man on the basis of his thoughts about a company, I'm not sure I care much about what you think anyhow. Just like I did ahead of 2011's NFLX implosion, I will keep banging the drum because this company is in worse shape today than it was back then.

Not only are we seeing a repeat of history, we're witnessing a deterioration at Netflix practically everybody chooses to ignore. It's stunning really. Read the writing on the wall; don't get swept up in rhetoric and hype.

Time Warner ( TWX) punkslaps Netflix on a regular basis. Now Amazon.com ( AMZN) decided to take a turn.

Viacom ( VIAB) -- a primary supplier of KidsTV for Netflix -- jumped ship for Amazon. It fleeced Jeff Bezos for a reported $200 million.

Netflix can tell us it simply refused to pay for this content. That Disney ( DIS) will more than aptly cover the loss. That's the rhetorical sideshow Hastings likes to play. As much as the "punkslap" imagery fits, that's even peripheral to what really matters here.

Amazon can blow $200 million not only because it has $63 billion in annual revenue and $8 billion in cash, but because it has a growing and sustainable ecosystem to support with overpriced digital content. In other words, Jeff Bezos operates from a position of strength. Reed Hastings does not.

Netflix can't afford to overpay. But that means its third-party content library wilts more thin by the day. It's (also overpriced) original programming and international expansion push is not the stuff of startups seizing long-term opportunity. It's not functioning from a position of strength like Amazon. It's desperation.

As the economics of licensing third-party content prove unworkable at Netflix, the company shifts -- even though Hastings told us last July there was no shift -- to another "hail Mary"-type strategy. Simply stated, Netflix needs to accomplish five to 10 years of hard work (that might not even end up successful after five, 10 years) in six to 12 months.

Look at Netflix's cash situation. Consider the reality of the content and original programming businesses. This analysis adds up to one unfortunate reality: Netflix is living on borrowed time. Literally.

-- 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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