The value of Netflix's video library has more than doubled in the last 2 years, as it spends billions

Reed hastings netflixKen Ishii/GettyNetflix CEO Reed Hastings.

Netflix is building one of the most substantial treasure troves of video in Hollywood, and the value of its content has more than doubled in the last two years, according to new research by Morgan Stanley.
The firm’s analysis shows Netflix’s content library is currently worth around $US12 billion in net assets for the first quarter of this year.

By comparison, Netflix’s library was worth a total of $US5.7 billion in net assets at the end of Q1 in 2015.

And that’s not just old shows and movies Netflix is licensing from established players.

The streaming service’s original content (including acclaimed shows like “GLOW” and “Stranger Things”) has become central to its growth.

According to Morgan Stanley, at the end of 2015, original content made up less than 5 per cent of the company’s net assets. In Q1 of this year, however, the ever-expanding, original-video trove now counts for 14 per cent, or $US1.7 billion, of Netflix’s assets.

Netflix’s original programming began in 2013 with its release of the first season of “House of Cards.” The move was spurred by the realisation that streaming rights for traditional TV and movie content would become increasingly expensive in the coming years, making production of original content a more profitable and cost-effective way forward for the service.

Since then, Netflix has poured billions into a rapidly expanding reservoir of original shows, movies, and standup specials.

But that has required a lot of cash up front.

In 2017, Netflix expects to have a negative free cash flow of $US2 billion to accommodate its continued investment in original content. While such a large negative short-term FCF has raised eyebrows on Wall Street, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has insisted that front-loaded costs for the content will breed positive results in the long term.

Hastings has also shown signs of refining the expansion of the service’s original programming by taking the axe to absurdly expensive shows like “Sense8” and “The Get Down.”

According to Morgan Stanley’s research, Netflix in 2017 will outspend its closest streaming competitor on original content by over $US2 billion. Netflix has said it will shell out around $US6 billion on content this year. Amazon will spend around $US4 billion for its own content, while Hulu will spend roughly $US2.5 billion, according to Morgan Stanley.

In the end, according to a recent statement from Netflix content boss Ted Sarandos, the service’s investment in original shows remains “pretty consistent” with the amount of hours people spend watching them, and “efficient” compared to licensing shows and movies from others.

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