How Did Netflix Land This Shocking TV Deal?


Netflix shares jumped as much as 5.9% on Monday amid heavy trading. The stock has gained 65% in 10 weeks, and my bull call options spread on the stock is above water for the first time in months.

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The catalyst this time was another content deal. Netflix sat down with Time Warner and walked away with exclusive rights to eight of Warner's drama TV series. Names include proven favorites West Wing and Fringe, but also newer hit titles Revolution and Longmire. It even looks forward to Kevin Bacon-starring series The Following, which hasn't even premiered on broadcast television yet. And there's a provision for "potential future shows" to round out the package.

Last Friday, snapped up the streaming rights to shows from A&E Networks, effectively stealing them away from Netflix, which used to air them. But whatever sorrows were sparked by the loss of Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers drowned in good feelings for the Warner slate.

There's some shock value to a rich deal with Warner, of all studios. CEO Jeff Bewkes has famously compared Netflix to the Albanian army, and the media conglomerate's HBO content will probably be off-limits to Los Gatos forever. I sense the invisible hand of Kevin Tsujihara, Warner Bros.' president of home entertainment services. He's a visionary and not afraid to try new spins on the digital media market, and Netflix investors can only hope that his influence within Time Warner keeps growing.

But this deal actually looks like a direct challenge to Amazon. The e-tailer's Prime subscribers had exclusive streaming rights to Fringe and West Wing this summer, and now the baton has been passed to Netflix.

The back-and-forth content shuffle raises questions aplenty. Did Amazon decide not to renew the deal? Did Netflix simply outbid its rival? Or is Warner trying out its media assets around town to see what works best?

Plenty of question marks, but still an exclamation point behind Netflix shares this week.

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