Stranger things: Netflix eclipses Disney

Netflix formally claimed the title of most valuable media company in the world on Thursday, at least for a bit.

Netflix on a tablet Photo: 123RF

Shares in the online streaming giant rose more than 2 percent in mid-afternoon trading, pushing the firm‘s market value to more than $153bn.

The ascent briefly eclipsed rival Walt Disney, which has been shaken by Netflix‘s success at luring US households from cable TV.

Netflix shares subsequently fell back, closing the day up 1.3 percent.

Netflix, founded in 1997, debuted on the stock market in 2002 as a DVD rental service with less than one million subscribers.

Today, it boasts 125 million streaming memberships in more than 190 countries, with people tuning in for more than 140 million hours each day.

Its share price has more than doubled in the past 12 months, as the firm announced it was investing billions in original shows and movies, including a production deal with Barack and Michelle Obama.

It is also branching out into new partnerships for distribution, including with the UK‘s Sky.

At the end of trading on Thursday, the firm‘s shares were worth about $350, giving the company a market capitalisation of about $151.8bn.

Thursday‘s gains marked the first time its value has overtaken Disney‘s. Netflix‘s share price is up about 80 percent since the start of 2018.

The inroads made by sites such as YouTube, Amazon and Netflix – which launched its streaming service in 2007 – are forcing traditional firms to act, spurring a slew of mergers and other deals.

Disney last year said it would stop licensing certain titles to Netflix and launch its own online subscription options. It also struck a deal to buy much of 21st Century Fox in an effort to broaden its content and strengthen those offerings.

Comcast, already a media behemoth that owns NBC Universal, has also said it is considering a bid for the Fox assets.

The potential bidding war has cast a shadow over share prices at the two companies.

Disney and Comcast shares both slipped about 0.8 percent Thursday, pushing their market values to about $152bn and $143bn respectively.