Will Netflix become acquisition bait?

Shares of Netflix have been absolutely hammered in the past five days, with the one-time high-flying video streaming service shedding almost 20 percent of its value after announcing that it will likely lose money next year.

Netflix’s market value has collapsed in recent months, with investors now valuing the company at $3.7 billion. Just two months ago, Netflix was worth $6.8 billion. Not long ago, it was in the mid teens. Ouch.

At some point, potential acquirers may circle, with a stock analyst suggesting back in September that Netflix was an “attractive asset” at that time. And who might emerge?

One company that’s been floated as a potential acquirer in the past is Amazon.com, which has been pushing heavily into video streaming by inking deals with Disney-ABC Television Group and others. With the release of the Kindle Fire, which essentially is a media consumption device, Amazon needs video content.

As The Wall Street Journal reported today, Netflix also is under fire for buying back shares of the company’s stock at high prices and failing to build a “cash cushion” to protect against a slowdown in the business. And with reports of its 2012 losses, Netflix is a company on the ropes.

Could Amazon.com make a bid now that Netflix is faltering?

Well, the two companies are actually connected on the back-end in bigger ways than you might think. PaidContent.org reported this week that Netflix — which has been a big user of Amazon Web Services for the past few years –plans to move its billing and payment systems to the AWS cloud infrastructure.

And the connections between the two companies became even more apparent in a SEC filing this week. Netflix said in the filing:

Currently, we run the majority of our computing at AWS. Given this, along with the fact that we cannot easily switch our AWS operations to another cloud provider, any disruption of or interference with our use of AWS would impact our operations and our business would be adversely impacted.

While the retail side of Amazon may compete with us, we do not believe that Amazon will use the AWS operation in such a manner as to gain competitive advantage against our service.

Talk about leverage.

UPDATE: Just saw this great piece titled “Netflix: Down, but not out” from Fortune’s Duff McDonald. He concludes with a statement about Amazon:

Oh, and one more thing: as with its loss-leader war against Apple with the Kindle Fire, Amazon has shown signs that it intends to be a major player in streaming content. It can do that in one of two ways. One: spend the billions that Netflix has already spent on content to try to duplicate its offerings, and hope it can lure subscribers away from the industry leader. Two: spend those same billions to just buy Netflix outright. If you were Jeff Bezos, which would you do?

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  • Guest

    I still fail to see the value in Amazon, or any company, buying Netflix. Netflix as a company is dead. As a concept it’s very much alive, but its brand is so badly damaged that the company employs five people full-time just to delete facetious comments from its Facebook page. 

    Think about this logic. Customers loved TiVo. Customers subscribed to Comcast. “Pundits” said that Comcast should have bought TiVo. Instead Comcast invented its own box, paid no money to TiVo, and now TiVo is dying. Likewise, customers love video on demand (VOD). Customers buy from Amazon. “Pundits” have said, year after year, that Amazon should buy Netflix. Instead Amazon has invented its own VOD service that, thanks to the phenomenally-successful Kindle Fire, has rapid growth at a time when Netflix is dying.

    • Arlington Albertson

      I came down to the comments intending to post that I thought it would be a good idea, however after reading your comment I can see the logic behind them just saying “bye Netflix” instead of “Buy Netflix”. Would be sad to see the competition dwindle, it’s the access of netflix and the like that have allowed streaming to FINALLY be a viable option (and profitable as they have seen), but if netflix dies (or is gobbled up by Amazon) will it hurt the business overall?

      Interesting story regardless, and it wouldn’t take much for amazon to be able to swallow them into their service (plus, netflix’s interface is WAAAAY better than Amazon VOD).

      • Guest

        Are a customer list and a few well-designed and well-positioned apps worth $3.7 billion?

  • http://www.appatic.com Avatar X

    Netflix would only be willing to sell for a 50% over market cap premium price at minimum. That means, even as it has fallen BAAAD. Netflix is still a 5 billion dollars acquisition. A high-risk acquisition very depending on key executives staying in the company and for the company. So, my guess is no. You would have been crazy to try to buy NetFlix. Unless you have a video streaming division that can absorb it completely. The only ones able to do that at that price would be Amazon and Microsoft.  Everyone else would not really be able to handle such transaction or are not able to pay for it.