Netflix (NFLX) has tuned out nearly all the headwinds it experienced in 2016, setting shares up for a brighter future in 2017, according to JPMorgan analysts, who added the stock to its U.S. Focus List on Wednesday.
Netflix shares saw mixed performance in 2016, the firm said, as the streaming service felt the effects of increased subscriber churn related to its pricing change, struggled to see momentum in international markets and faced competition from Amazon's (AMZN) Prime Video expansion, said JPMorgan, which has an "overweight" rating and $129 price target on Netflix stock. Additionally, Netflix burnt through a ton of cash last year, spending approximately $6 billion on original content.
Shares of Netflix increased about 12% last year, a modest gain compared to previous years. Shares were lower by 0.2% to $129.48 on Wednesday late morning.
"However, we believe Netflix sets up as a cleaner story into 2017 with pricing changes behind, revenue accretion from higher average selling prices, stronger content, and increased global profitability," the firm noted. "Importantly, we think Netflix can add more U.S. and international subscribers in 2017 than 2016, on its way toward 60 million-plus U.S. subs and ~100 million international subs by 2020..."
Netflix has said it plans to ramp up original content production this year to more than 1,000 hours from 600 hours in 2016. The company has a jam-packed slate of planned content releases, including the original series A Series of Unfortunate Events on Jan. 13; its first original reality series, Ultimate Beastmaster, on Feb. 24; and the beginning of "highly-anticipated" exclusive content deals with Disney (DIS) and the CW. In all, it should create Netflix's "strongest" content slate, the firm said.
"We believe Netflix originals are working well, some of them with global appeal, and estimate ~80% of Netflix's content is exclusive," JPMorgan added.
The company will continue to benefit from new partnerships with cable operators, such as Comcast (CMCSA) , which recently integrated Netflix into their X1 set-top boxes.
JPMorgan didn't note many risks for the stock in 2017, aside from high free-cash-flow burn related to original content spending and potential net neutrality risks under President-elect Donald Trump.
Netflix and Google have been vocal supporters of the FCC's net neutrality regulations, which prevent internet service providers from promoting their own content over others. Net neutrality stands to be dismantled once Trump enters the White House, as the president-elect has said the regulations represent a "power grab" by the FCC.
JPMorgan also issued some predictions for Netflix's upcoming earnings report. Netflix will post financial results for the 2016 fourth quarter on Wednesday, Jan. 18 after the closing bell.
The firm projects Netflix will add 1.44 million U.S. subscribers and 3.16 million international subscribers during the quarter, both of which are in-line with consensus estimates.
Wall Street estimates Netflix will report adjusted earnings of 13 cents per share and $2.5 billion in revenue for the period.