Netflix Is $20 Billion in Debt, With No Plans to Slow Down — Report

So far, the global streaming giant has taken an "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to its original programming, with varied results.
netflix reed hastings ted sarandos
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings with Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos

Netflix has acquired $20.54 billion in long-term debt, according to second quarter SEC filings reported by the Los Angeles Times. One of the biggest buyers at the Sundance Film Festival this year, the streaming giant has increased spending on original programming in an effort to grow its subscriber base and compete with Amazon and Hulu. It is projecting spending $2.5 billion in net cash outflow for the year, up from $1.7 billion last year.

The company has many reasons to be confident: It has 104 million users worldwide, a 25% increase in subscriptions since 2016, and wracked up a whopping 91 Emmy nominations this year, just 19 of reigning leader HBO’s 110.

The company’s outrageous spending habits give new meaning to the old maxim, “you have to spend money to make money.” According to executives, the aim is for 50% of the site’s content to be original programming. “That’s a lot of capital up front, and then you get a payout over many years,” CEO Reed Hastings said. “The irony is the faster that we grow and the faster we grow the owned originals, the more drawn on free cash flow that we’ll be.”

Stranger Things Season 1
“Stranger Things”Curtis Baker/Netflix

Currently, a large portion of that outflow goes towards hefty licensing fees for programming from outside studios. Many of Netflix’s most popular shows, for instance, are not produced in house. Lionsgate produces “Orange is the New Black,” an indie studio Media Rights Capital makes “House of Cards,” Sony Pictures Television owns “The Crown,” and “Iron Fist” is a Marvel property.

Netflix scored big with “Stranger Things” last year, but shows like “Santa Clarita Diet” did not hit. The studio recently disappointed fans with high profile cancellations of the Wachowski siblings’ “Sense8” and Baz Luhrmann’s  “The Get Down,” both of which reportedly had very high production costs.

So far, the company has been taking a “little bit of everything” approach, investing in prestige projects like Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” as well as a slew of Adam Sandler comedies, which have so far seen their biggest viewerships in terms of movies. Not every project can be Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories,” which combines the prestige of an auteur with the international reach of a star like Sandler.

Read the full report here.

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