Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Netflix: Thanks for the Advice, Carl

Yesterday, Carl Icahn announced that he was buying a big stake in Netflix, in the hope that someone would buy the streaming video company.

Here’s the Netflix response, relayed by spokesman Jonathan Friedland: “We have many shareholders, now including Mr. Icahn, and we’re always open to their perspective on how to build on our success.”

Translation: “We’d like to see our price go up, too, Carl. Thanks!”

There’s not a lot more to say about Icahn’s latest move, at least for now.

You can spend time analyzing Icahn’s knowledge of the video landscape, and his history with Blockbuster, etc. But this is pretty straightforward: He says he bought Netflix shares (actually, mostly call options, but whatever), because he thinks someone — Google, or Comcast, or Amazon, or somebody — should buy the company.

Here’s the money quote from his 10-minute interview with Bloomberg last night: “There’s going to be demand for Netflix. I think there will be acquirers that want to buy it. It’s just a matter of corporate governance, you know. Do you do what shareholders want, or do you what … or you don’t.”

It’s worth watching the rest of the interview (below). Not because there’s much in the way of information there, but because it shows how disinterested Icahn is in dissecting Netflix. He just figures they have a lot of subscribers, generate a lot of money (though he uses the words “revenue” and “cash flow” interchangeably), and someone should buy them for more than they’re currently worth. Also, the Internet. And tablets.

But, by the same token, it would be foolish to paint Icahn as an aw-shucks bumbler, the way he likes to present himself. True, as of 2006, he did not “do email.” But you don’t have to be a tech user to bet big on a tech company.

Ah, this reminds me: If you haven’t seen this clip of Icahn doing … well, not stand-up, exactly, but definitely storytelling, at Caroline’s in 2007, you should:

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work