Netflix stock soars past $100 for first time

Shares rise 15% on Thursday after solid earnings report

Those who have doubted Netflix's stature as a new-media powerhouse have taken their lumps lately, especially on Thursday, when the stock soared past $100 a share for the first time since the company went public eight years ago.

Netflix shares rose 15% to $100.25, with investors reacting to a solid quarterly earnings report the previous day that included a boost in guidance.

Netflix's high-flying stock price gave the company a $5.4 billion market cap, 54-times bigger than Blockbuster. The surging shares -- up 120% in a year -- had some detractors delivering their mea culpas, though in most cases not changing their opinion that the stock is overpriced.

The shares recently have been a favorite among traders keying on "momentum" stocks.

"We readily acknowledge that our 'sell' call has not worked," said Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible, who has been telling clients that the stock's fair value is $47.50.

"While our timing has been off, we still cannot ignore the threats facing Netflix from intensifying competition, cost inflation and digital commoditization," Wible said. "We contend the valuation of Netflix will eventually reflect these risks well before they fully manifest."

Netflix boasts nearly 14 million subscribers, and investors are salivating over the popularity of its much smaller -- thus far -- streaming video-on-demand service, even though it remains to be seen whether that will be as profitable a business as mailing out DVDs. After all, subscribers can watch a lot more movies per month through the Internet than they can if they have to wait for postal workers to deliver discs.

And though Netflix VOD can be experienced on some very popular devices -- iPad, Wii, TV set-top boxes, TiVo, etc. -- it still faces competitors on many fronts, including Blockbuster, Redbox, Amazon.com and Hulu.

Hulu is getting ready to launch a premium service, according to published reports. If its users suddenly have to pay for what they are used to getting for free, it could encourage them to try Netflix instead.

Netflix also caught a break Thursday when Fox and Universal each agreed to supply their movies to Redbox -- but four weeks after they are released on DVD, just as the studios do with Netflix.
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