Will Microsoft Buy Netflix?

When Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) introduced streaming just over a decade ago, it would have been difficult to predict the resulting changes in the media landscape. The company still dominates the industry it pioneered, but a number of well-heeled competitors have made moves to stake a claim in this new paradigm.

Amazon is the company’s largest competitor in the streaming video space, though it still falls a distant second. Alphabet‘s YouTube has taken a different path, offering a mix of music and video selections. Apple has also thrown its hat in the ring, adding programs to its Apple Music service, with plans to ramp that up in the coming year, reportedly planning to spend $1 billion on content. Even Facebook is getting into the game with the Watch feature, introduced last year.

One company notably absent from this Who’s Who of tech giants is Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), leading one analyst to predict that the company will make a bid to acquire Netflix in a bold move to enter the burgeoning streaming segment.

Image source: Getty Images.

A match made in heaven?

Analysts love to wonder about the next megadeal, and Netflix has frequently been the target of such speculation. In the most recent round of conjecture about massive tie-ups, Porter Bibb, managing partner at Mediatech Capital Partners said of the streaming video space, “Things are moving faster than anyone would have ever imagined.”

Bibb has 40 years’ experience working in media and entertainment, so he knows a thing or two about the industry. He posited that Microsoft would like to be a contender in streaming video but currently lacks the necessary media content. He believes those shortcomings will result in a merger between the two companies — a marriage that will be announced at some point in the next two years.

“They don’t have any direct to the consumer content delivery,” Bibb told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I think Netflix is going to be acquired by Microsoft, which doesn’t have any content right now.”

Bibb thinks Microsoft is currently laser-focused on its Azure cloud-computing segment, and those efforts have resulted in the company being one of the largest players in the industry, second only to Amazon — which pioneered the cloud infrastructure-as-a-service business. It has, however, distracted Microsoft from the massive adoption of online viewing.

I don’t think it will happen

It’s important to note that there’s ample precedent for Microsoft using its massive war chest to acquire technology it desires — like artificial intelligence — or spend to fill a hole in its corporate strategy. The company has made hundreds of such deals over the years, but the two most high-profile acquisitions are likely internet phone service Skype and business social network LinkedIn.

While there’s certainly potential for this type of deal to come to fruition, the biggest obstacle would likely be the price tag. Netflix recently became the world’s most valuable media company, with a market cap of over $152 billion. Add to that the significant premium that shareholders would almost certainly require to approve any buyout, and the price tag quickly exceeds $200 billion — and that’s if Netflix was inclined to be acquired at all.

I suspect that the cost alone will be enough to dissuade Microsoft from such a purchase. Anything’s possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Teresa Kersten is an employee of LinkedIn and is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. LinkedIn is owned by Microsoft. Danny Vena owns shares of Alphabet (A shares), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Netflix. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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