House of Cards, Netflix and the Bottom Line

I spent hours this weekend glued to my computer screen. Curious to know if "House of Cards" would entertain as promised, I watched the first few episodes as a skeptic, only to be rewarded with solid acting, clever writing and a story line that kept on giving. This political thriller boasts a bevy of Hollywood talent, with Kevin Spacey at the helm. After losing a bid to be the next Secretary of State for a new president, this ethically challenged Congressman plots revenge and an alternative path to power. If you liked "The West Wing" and won't get discouraged by the seemingly realistic portrayal of what happens behind closed doors in Washington, you will enjoy the thirteen episodes of Season 1 and anxiously await the next baker's dozen.

Here's the rub. You need to be an existing Netflix subscriber or sign up tout-suite. In a move that has Hollywood paying close attention, this self-described "leading Internet television network" laid out $100 million to a star cast of writers and actors to recreate a Yankee version of this popular UK theatrical offering.

Why would a company do this? Some assert that original content is where the money is. According to several recent studies, "Streaming videos online are becoming more popular as technology evolves and more content is created for the Internet." See "NPD study: More people watch Internet videos on TVs than computers." CBS News, September 26, 2012. If you hate the countless ads that now consume the first twenty minutes of any in-person showing, you will be glad to have an alternative to movie-watching.

For institutional investors, this push to garner new subscribers and hopefully add to the bottom line is noteworthy. According to the NASDAQ website, 86.85% of the $8+ billion capitalization for Netflix, Inc. (ticker is NFLX) is in the hands of institutional owners. Some of them may not be appeased, certainly those who have sued the company over financial statement disclosures. In April 2012, Judge Samuel Conti appointed the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System and State-Boston Retirement System as lead plaintiffs in this putative class action. Click to read the "Netflix Inc. Securities Litigation" court order.

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