Netflix caught in perfect storm
Want to know why the company had such a spectacular rise and fall? Blame management, but also blame the short-selling process.
The answer lies in short sellers and the flawed process of betting against stocks.
When you buy a stock, it's pretty simple. You place an order, a seller is found, and you get your report. Usually there are so many sellers at once that unless the stock is incredibly thinly traded -- say, a couple thousand shares a day -- an order of any magnitude is pretty much handled in line.
But a short seller has a different set of rules. If you want to sell something, you have to own or borrow it first so that the buyer gets delivery of the stock. When you own it, of course, you sell your shares and the buyer gets them. But if you sell it without owning it, what does the buyer get? Does he get a notice saying, "Sorry, stock unavailable"?
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No, the buyer won't tolerate that. So the short seller has to borrow the shares, typically from what is known as the broker's electronic vault. Only after the shares have been located can the short seller go to work betting against the stock.
Now, there were always deep suspicions about how long Netflix could continue to grow. How many people want to get DVDs in the mail? How large is that audience? Aren't there plenty of alternatives, whether it be Blockbuster, or Coinstar (CSTR) or video on demand from your cable operator?
But the company, during the days when the distributors of films and television programs were hurting, managed to lock up a tremendous breadth of product that made Netflix a joy to be a part of.
When people thought the DVD market was getting saturated, Netflix introduced a streaming service that was wildly popular and answered the critics' worries about the next leg of growth after DVDs.
As the company grew, the number of people who thought the business would hit a wall increased almost by the day. The critics felt that either subscriber growth would peak or the cost of content would skyrocket as studios recognized that, while they needed the money Netflix offered, they could play hard to get now that times had improved. So the skeptics sought to short the stock with reckless abandon.
But the supply of stock outstanding needed to locate shares to sell short wasn't expanding at all. In fact, it was contracting because of Netflix's buyback.
So shorts kept shorting and trying to borrow stock and they couldn't locate it.
When you can't locate a stock, you are forced to cover your position, or buy back shares. When you saw the stock skyrocket from $50 to nearly $300, some of that demand was from natural buyers. But much more was from buyers who were forced to cover. In an amazing confluence, just at the height of when short sellers were being forced to cover like mad, Netflix committed its now legendary screw-up.
The long investors panicked, but more importantly the short sellers, who would normally cushion the blow with their buying, had been wiped out by the rise.
The result? No floor. None. Without growth, with a shrinking subscriber base and with no natural covering short sellers, what happened?
You got this astounding collapse from a level that it should never have been at. You want to know why Netflix soared? Blame the short-selling process. You want to know why it collapsed? Blame management, for certain. You want to know why it fell with such velocity? That's what happens when a stock gets squeezed up to the point that there's no one left to cover.
At the time of publication, Cramer had no position in any of the securities mentioned.
once again it's not the fundamentals,it's the short sellers fault
this guy knows nothing except his false self image
PUT THIS CROOK IN WITH MADOFF
once again the expert looks at history and educates us about netflix
and since he is always looking back he is always right
why does cnbc need a disclaimer on the shyster but not the others on the program?
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The fall in this sector has been so precipitous and lurking that we are just one more big miss and one more ugly deal away from taking down a good portion of the S&P 500.
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