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Netflix任命新CFO,意在整顿财务

彭博社 2019年01月10日

据分析师预测,Netflix的2018年财报可能会出现30亿美元的负现金流,较往年的20亿美元进一步恶化。

当你在假日季观看《蒙上你的眼》(Bird Box)、《黑镜:潘达斯奈基》(Black Mirror: Bandersnatch)或再次观看百看不厌的《办公室》(The Office)时,Netflix却上演了一出自编自导的闹剧——任命前动视暴雪的首席财务官斯宾塞·纽曼担任新首席财务官。

就在这一新闻曝光之前,暴雪突然宣布炒纽曼鱿鱼,而且纽曼也同意了暴雪提出的条件——直到当前聘用合同还剩6个月时才会寻找新的工作。很明显,纽曼并不愿意失去在Netflix工作的机会,尽管这是一家有着雄心壮志、极其烧钱的媒体公司。

新公司授予纽曼的职责十分明确。《华尔街日报》在标题中做出了这样一番描述:“新Netflix首席财务官受命应对现金流难题”。

热播的原创惊悚电视剧,例如《蒙上你的眼》或由观众决定剧情走向的尝试剧目《黑镜:潘达斯奈基》,并不便宜。随着Netflix公众知名度的日益提升,其亏损也是水涨船高。分析师预测,公司2018年财报可能会出现30亿美元的负现金流,较往年的20亿美元进一步恶化。天价高品质电视节目的忠实观众们自然希望公司能够解决其资产负债问题。

对于Netflix来说,最显而易见的解决方案莫过于提升其视频流服务注册用户的数量。其核心增长策略到目前为止已经得到了回报。最近,公司已经开始着眼于国际市场,为全球不同的国家制作内容。作为其中的举措之一,公司可能还会进一步提升其注册费。

另一个有待检验的方式是:花更多的心思去迎合那些活跃用户,而不是不怎么活跃的用户。就这一点而言,公司还有很多地方需要向迪士尼以及纽曼的前任雇主动视暴雪学习。这两家公司十分擅长以截然不同的方式,向消费其内容的客户收取费用,而且其费率因用户的不同有着巨大的差异。就《星战》系列而言,迪士尼不仅仅收取电影门票费。如果你是一名超级粉丝的话,你可以购买活动人偶,前往迪士尼主题公园或在Netflix上观看《克隆人战争》。公司有无数种方法,利用客户对特定版权商品的痴迷度,来提升其销售额。

视频游戏行业对于此举有一个行业术语——鲸鱼。很多公司营收的相当大一部分便来自于相对较小的受众,而且当前游戏开发的初衷便是最大程度地从那些心甘情愿的玩家手中赚钱,这体现为在游戏中销售战利品箱、虚拟道具以及推出特别版游戏。动视暴雪还在探索通过电子竞技来进一步实现其热卖游戏的货币化。

如今,Netflix对于大多数人实行同等金额的收费,这一点与其消费的内容无关。当然,人们可以略微多付点钱,便可以获得Netflix超清节目,但迪士尼和动视暴雪的案例证明,增加收入的方法有很多种,而且无需靠贩卖内容。不妨参考一下WarnerMedia旗下HBO的精英电影套餐,与节目有关的商品,以及其他类型的通过应用购买。

第三种改善现金流的办法无非就是节流。对于新任首席财务官来说,这看起来似乎是个颇有吸引力的策略,但我认为这一点Netflix并不能完全说了算。如果你像Netflix那样把“成为一家无与伦比的全球媒体公司”看作是理所当然的事情,那么你就得以此为基础进行逆向思考。Netflix需要花重金来聘用能够实现这一目标的人才。

去年,有媒体报道称Netflix斥资至少1.5亿美元来“引诱”制片人桑德·莱姆斯加入其团队。莱姆斯在推特(Twitter)上是这样说的:“为什么记者们总喜欢用‘引诱’编剧的辞令?就像我们是一群跟着地上糖果诱饵走的孩子一样。我利用我的想象力为大型公司带来了20多亿美元的营收。我不会跟着糖走,我自己就是糖。”(财富中文网)

译者:冯丰

审校:夏林

While you spent the holidays streaming Bird Box, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and/or re-watching The Office for the hundredth time, Netflix was playing out a corporate drama of its own—poaching Activision Blizzard Chief Financial Officer Spencer Neumann to be its new CFO.

Just before the news emerged, Activision abruptly announced that it would fire Neumann, who had agreed to a provision that barred him from negotiating for a new job until the last six months of his contract. It was a clear sign that Neumann wasn’t willing to pass up a chance to work at Netflix, this era’s preeminent high-flying, money-burning media company.

Neumann’s mandate at the company is clear. A Wall Street Journal headline put it this way: “New Netflix CFO to Tackle Cash Flow Conundrum.”

Buzzy original thrillers like Bird Box, or choose-your-own-adventure gambits like Bandersnatch aren’t cheap. And as Netflix’s public profile has climbed, so have its losses. Analysts predict that the company will report about $3 billion in negative cash flow for 2018, up from $2 billion in the previous year. Fans of wildly expensive, high-quality television should hope the company can figure out its balance sheet.

The most obvious solution is for Netflix to just continue to increase the number of people who subscribe to its video-streaming service. Its core growth strategy has paid off so far. And recently, the company has taken on a more global focus, creating content for countries all over the world. As part of this approach, it could also further increase the price of a subscription.

Another, more untested path would be to cater more to active users over less engaged ones. This is where the company has a lot to learn from Disney and Activision, Neumann’s former employers. Both of those companies—in very different ways—do a great job of charging different customers vastly disparate amounts of money for consuming their content. Disney doesn’t just charge you for a ticket to see Star Wars. If you’re a superfan, you can buy action figures, go to a Disney theme park or watch The Clone Wars on Netflix. There are endless ways to upsell customers based on their affection for a particular piece of intellectual property.

The video game industry has a term for this—whales. Many companies make the bulk of their revenue from a relatively small group of people, and modern games are built to extract the maximum amount from those willing to pay. That means selling in-game loot boxes, virtual items and special game editions. Activision is also exploring e-sports to further monetize its popular titles.

Right now, Netflix charges most people the same amount, no matter how much they consume. Sure, you can pay slightly more for Netflix Ultra HD, but as the Disney and Activision examples illustrate, there are plenty of way to charge more without metering content. Think elite movie packages akin to WarnerMedia’s HBO, merchandise tied to shows or some other version of in-app purchases.

A third path for improving cash flow would be to simply spend less money. This might seem like an appealing tactic for a new CFO, but I’d argue the levers here are partly out of Netflix’s control. If you take for granted, as Netflix does, that it wants to be a once-in-a-generation global media company, then you need to work backwards from there. Netflix needs to pay what it costs to hire talent.

Last year, there were media reports that Netflix paid at least $150 million to “lure” showrunner Shonda Rhimes to its staff. Rhimes, on Twitter, broke it down this way: “Why do reporters always say writers were ‘lured’? Like we’re children following a trail of candy. I created a $2B+ revenue stream for a major Corp with my imagination. I do not follow trails of candy. I am the candy.”

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