Netflix just became the biggest pure-play media company in the world when measured by Wall Street sentiment — market capitalization.
For the first time, Netflix on Thursday jumped past Disney after yesterday surpassing Comcast. The company is now worth more than double Time Warner, whose chief executive Jeff Bewkes once referred to Netflix in 2010 as the Albanian army.
Just four years ago, Netflix was boasting it had $300 million to spend on content and would make five new shows a year.
"The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO becomes us," said Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos back in 2013. Now, it has $8 billion to spend on content and is making 80 movies and TV shows a year.
Management teams from rival media companies have long scratched their heads given the injustice in it all. Netflix doesn't have to prove its shows are watched. All Netflix has to do is keep signing subscribers.
But even Netflix, which has proved naysayers wrong, doesn't want to be judged on that metric forever, because sooner or later you run out of growth (or maybe you don't). Wall Street believes there's a wholesale change in the way people watch TV, even while for many of us Netflix is simply an add-on.
Netflix's market cap ended Thursday at an astounding $160.94 billion, which is not bad for a firm that charges not much more than $10 per month. The list of talent getting checks from Sarandos gets longer by the day and now includes even a former president as one of its creatives.
Bloomberg media analyst Paul Sweeney, who's been watching the sector forever, observes that Netflix is trying to get the street to judge it instead on profitability without much luck. As long as things keep chugging along then maybe Netflix is a future buyer of Disney, not the other way around.
Stranger Things have happened.
Major media company market caps as of Thursday afternoon:
Netflix: $160.94 billion
Disney: $152.20 billion
Comcast: $143.17 billion
Time Warner: $73.74 billion
Twenty-First Century Fox: $73.59 billion.