‘I don’t think anybody can catch them’ — former NBC executive says Netflix is too far ahead

Netflix is loaded with subscribers and making investments that will keep them on top in the video streaming war, former NBC Executive Tom Rogers said Friday on CNBC.

“I think Netflix has won, and I don’t think anybody can catch them,” he said on “Squawk Alley.”

The streaming giant reported that it again beat subscriber growth projections in the fourth quarter and added a total of 29 million paid users in all of 2018. Rogers predicted Netflix’s subscriber base could reach 175 million by the end of the year and 300 million in the next five.

Rogers shrugged off the fact that the streaming giant did not meet revenue projections in the fourth quarter, calling it a “small” miss.

USA Networks founder Kay Koplovitz, who appeared on “Squawk Alley” with Rogers, said Netflix’s direct relationship with its approximately 144 million customers is key. Traditional media giants are planning to roll out their own platforms, but it will take time to catch up because they are entering a world where they will need to “transfer to a direct-to-consumer in order to survive.”

“[Netflix has] a lot of data on these consumers, and they’re way ahead of the competition that is coming into the marketplace with new direct-to-consumer,” she said.

New market entrants will have to mull whether they want to run advertisements on their platforms or not, said Koplovitz. Disney is due to release Disney+ in late 2019 and Comcast‘s NBC Universal will launch a free ad-supported model by 2020.

“I do believe that the consumer mind today is ‘I pay for this; I see it without commercials,'” she said. “The model that the others have in the marketplace with advertising, I think, it’s gonna be challenged.”

It will be very difficult “to protect a legacy system and yet transfer” to direct-to-consumer, Koplovitz added.

Netflix spent about $8 billion to produce new content last year, which could increase even more this year and keep investors happy. The company is known for taking on huge debt loads to make original productions such as the hit movie “Bird Box.” Netflix claims to have 10 percent of TV viewing time in the U.S.

“Nobody’s gonna begin to spend the amount of money on programming … that they’re spending, all wrapped up at a price-value combination that I don’t think anybody can touch,” Rogers said.

As cable customers continue to cut the cord in favor of on-demand viewing, Rogers contends traditional media companies will be the most vulnerable if there is a downturn in the economy. Netflix has benefited over the years from cable cancellations.

“The hard thing here for whether you’re Disney or whether you’re CBS or frankly even if you’re Comcast, you’re trying to grow a new business while managing the decline of your traditional business, and that’s a very hard thing to do,” he said. Additionally, “it drains resources away from that growth opportunity.”

Regardless of the new video streaming services flooding the market, Netflix said it is more worried about competition from Fortnite and Google’s YouTube.

Shares of Netflix are down about 3 percent since the company released a mixed earnings report on Thursday. Still, the equity is up nearly 50 percent since Christmas Eve.

Disclosure: NBC and CNBC are owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit.

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