By Noel Randewich
SANFRANCISCO (Reuters) – Netflix’s stock market value ballooned to a record $153 billion on Thursday and eclipsed Walt Disney Co for the first time, making it the world’s top entertainment company and underscoring a monumental shift by viewers away from cinemas and cable television.
Buoyed by a blitz of original programs attracting millions of new customers, some of whom have given up cable television packages, Netflix’s stock has surged 82 percent so far in 2018.
Its stock on Thursday was up 2.3 percent at $352.90.
Since Netflix’s initial public offer in 2002, when it was a mail-order DVD service, its stock has surged nearly 33,000 percent. It has also become a must-own stock for Wall Street investors, alongside Apple, Amazon.com, Alphabet and Facebook.
Disney, by comparison, has lost 5 percent over the past year as it and other one-time entertainment industry leaders struggle to adapt to the shift by global viewers to online video.
Disney, with a stock market value of $152 billion on Thursday, is starting its own streaming service for families, and it has said it will stop supplying new movies to Netflix starting next year.
Earlier this month, Netflix’s market capitalisation overtook leading U.S. cable operator Comcast, which owns NBC and Universal Pictures. Its stock market value on Thursday was $145 billion.
Investors are bullish on Netflix’s ability to add more members and are paying red-hot prices to own its stock. Netflix recently traded at 98 times expected earnings for the next 12 months, versus Disney and Comcast at 14 times earnings, according to Thomson Reuters data.
(Reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Nick Zieminski)