By David Z. Morris
July 14, 2018

Netflix stock dropped a dizzying 4.28% on Friday, wiping out the stock’s gains over the preceding month, but barely denting its monumental 100% runup for the year. The dip comes ahead of the video streaming service’s expected earnings report on July 16, which could take some wind out of the stock’s sails if it’s anything short of flawless.

The main metric of concern on Monday will be subscriber growth, which has been stellar so far this year. Growth for the fourth quarter of 2017 beat Wall Street estimates in January, driving Netflix’s market value above $100 billion for the first time. Forecasts were blown away again in April’s Q1 2018 report, and the stock has continued to soar since.

Even after Friday’s dip, Netflix now has a market value of $174 billion – far more than the value of large entertainment operations including CBS, NBC parent company Comcast, and even, astonishingly, the Walt Disney Company. That reflects not present-day revenues – Netflix’s were around 1/5th of Disney’s last year – but the expectation that the streaming platform will become a primary entertainment source in the years ahead.

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There’s plenty of evidence for that thesis, with younger viewers already defaulting to Netflix as their primary source of what used to be called “television.” And a recent wave of Emmy Nominations for Netflix shows can’t hurt – this marks the first time in 17 years HBO hasn’t had the most nominations.

The highly speculative nature of the stock, though, makes it particularly vulnerable to an even slightly disappointing quarterly report, and the Friday selloff likely reflects investors shedding that risk, at least temporarily. CNBC’s Carter Worth summed up the dynamic on Friday, saying that the stock is “priced for perfection. The earnings will have to be just that – perfect.”

For those keeping score at home, Wall Street’s second-quarter projections have Netflix adding 1.2 million new subscribers in the U.S. and 5 million internationally. Anything short of that could put a pin in Netflix’s swollen value.

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