Will Amazon and the X Files Mojo Beat Netflix?

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When Netflix Inc. (NFLX) first announced that it would produce its own content, there was a lot of concern that the fix to the company was being broken. It turns out that Chairman and CEO Reed Hastings won that argument and his shareholders have laughed all the way to the bank. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is hoping to do some of the same by tying up the creator of the wildly popular "The X Files" series.

A report from Deadline.com is signaling that "The X Files" creator Chris Carter has an order from Amazon Studios for a pilot show called "The After." The thriller is said to take place around the apocalypse, but outside of that we will leave it to the entertainment websites to expand upon.

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Reed Hastings scored with Kevin Spacey and "House of Cards." This may have even led to a recovery model for old media and new media ahead. The show was linked as a driver to increase Netflix subscriptions, and it did well enough that a second season is already under production.

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Jeff Bezos may have turned the media world upside down with his personal purchase of the Washington Post newspaper. Now for Amazon shareholders there is Amazon Studios. It already has a first-look deal with Warner Bros. Pictures.

Here is where the discourse may come into play, or maybe where the opportunity is. Netflix and Amazon may look identical to an unwary stock buyer. Netflix shares are at $275 and Amazon shares are just above $280. That is where the common issues part.

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Amazon.com is running a near-zero margin business right now as Jeff Bezos tries to take over every aspect of retail that he can get his grasp on in the coming years. He has to be sacrificing margin for growth out to 2016 or maybe even 2020. The goal has to be for incremental gains here with the Studio business, because Amazon has a market cap of $128 billion or so and it is expected to have annual sales of close to $90 billion already in the year 2014. Amazon also trades at more than 100-times expected 2014 earnings and has close to $7.5 billion in cash and short-term securities.

The valuation of Netflix is entirely different from Amazon. Netflix has a market cap of about $16 billion. It is expected to have sales of just over $5 billion in 2014. Its stock also trades at about 83-times forward earnings based upon the same 2014 earnings consensus from Thomson Reuters. Netflix has close to $1.1 billion in cash and short-term securities.

The reality is that a serious hit could garner far more in relative upside for Netflix than it would seem to for Amazon. That being said, Jeff Bezos is on a mission to dominate almost anything and everything. Cost sure seems to be no issue.

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