Netflix Takes on $2 Billion in Debt as Disney, Apple Launch Competition

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - OCTOBER 09: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings speaks during Netflix Slate Event
Daniel Muñoz/Getty Images for NETFLIX

Netflix is deepening its already substantial debt load in the face of mounting competition, saying Monday that it plans to issue $2 billion more in bonds, which have been classified as junk.

The announcement comes as Netflix prepares for the Walt Disney Company and Apple to each launch their competing streaming services next month.  The new platforms are more attractively priced than Netflix and represent the latest phase of the so-called streaming wars, in which Hollywood studios and Silicon Valley companies are going head-to-head for valuable subscription dollars.

Netflix continues to burn through cash at an impressive rate. The company is expected to spend $15 billion this year on content alone, up from $12 billion last year. Netflix executives are projecting a bigger cash bleed this year of $3.5 billion, versus $3 billion last year.

Subscription revenue alone isn’t enough to finance Netflix’s growing slate of TV shows and movies, which include such expensive projects as Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Irishman, which stars Robert De Niro and cost a reported $159 million. The streamer has also embarked on a high-profile production deal with former first couple Barack and Michelle Obama.

In order to make ends meet, the streamer has had to issue billions of dollars worth of debt. Netflix is carrying about $12.4 billion in long-term debt, as well as shorter-term obligations.

The streamer said it plans to use the net proceeds from its latest debt offering for “general corporate purposes,” which could include content acquisitions as well as production and development.

Last week, Netflix reported disappointing domestic subscriber growth for the third quarter, marking the second quarter in a row it has missed its subscriber growth projections.

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