While Netflix's (NFLX) stock surge this week was driven by its geographical expansion, shareholders should be looking to content for the next big payout.
As Real Money reported Tuesday, Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings has been planning an aggressive campaign to tap the global market for fresh content licenses for its subscribers.
And on Wednesday, Hastings spelled out those plans at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, highlighting that the online-streaming giant is now running in just about every country except China, sending shares on a more than 9% rally.
Netflix ended the day as the top performer in the S&P 500: a familiar position for Hastings, who was able to top the index in 2015 after discovering that widening his network of proprietary media distribution helps widen profit margins, as well.
Although many pundits on Wall Street took the news to mean Netflix is now "going global," this is hardly a fresh strategy for Hastings, who last year inked new licensing deals from Italy to Japan, and from Spain to Australia.
Hastings has also learned how to cash in on his "Netflix Originals" content, locking in subscribers with a 2016 studded with new seasons of hits, including "Narcos," "Daredevil," and "Orange Is the New Black."
One way to gauge viewer appetite for its upcoming sequels is social media, in which Netflix now has separate Twitter accounts for subscribers around the world, including ones set up for Latin America, Portugal, Denmark and Italy.
"Orange Is the New Black" is far-and-away the most followed series slated for a reboot, with more than 1 million followers on Twitter (@OITNB), followed by "House of Cards" (@HouseofCards) with 626,000; Daredevil (@Daredevil) with 267,000 followers; 144,000 for "Jessica Jones" (@JessicaJones); and "Sense8" with 121,000.
There are also some telling patterns in the ratio of likes to followers, as some newer shows may not have built up as wide a fan base as the original hits, yet viewers are signaling their appetite by clicking "like."
The suspense series "Marco Polo" leads the pack, with more than 19% of its 17,800 followers liking the page, followed by 14% likes from the 18,300 followers of "Bloodline." (Both shows are slated for new seasons this year.)
Among the old favorites, "Orange Is the New Black" stands out with nearly 3% of its followers liking its page, as opposed to less than 1% for both "House of Cards" and "Daredevil."
Netflix's head of content, Ted Sarandos, said at the Consumer Electronics Show, "that the list is only going to grow over time," with sights set on newly reached global demographics.
"We're making kids cartoons, teen dramas, sci-fi thrillers, adult comedies and historical epics," he said at his keynote address. "We're working in multiple languages, and if you've seen through the success of our series 'Narcos,' that can be successful across all territories, even when the original language is not English. We're in a unique position to bring the world's stories to the world's people."
In addition to its expanding grasp of geographical territories, Netflix is getting more and more subscribers hooked, which can be seen in a rapid acceleration in viewer hours.
The 42.5 billion streaming hours Netflix logged last year -- which equates to almost 6 hours of annual viewing for every person on earth, based on a 7.3 billion world population estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau -- trumped 2014 viewership by 46%.
"In the fourth quarter, people watched 12 billion of Netflix, up from 8 and a quarter billion a year ago," Hastings said at his CES keynote, this week. "Tune-in has been replaced by personal choice. We live in an on-demand world and there's no going back."
The viewer growth is also getting a major boost from mobile technology -- from growth in IP-enabled TVs to larger smartphone screens -- which will help daily viewership per subscriber to exceed 3 hours-per-day in 2016, a 50% increase from last year, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield wrote this week in an investor report.
"Once a consumer learns to binge, they want to binge more and more content -- there is simply no going back to linear TV with commercials and a week or more between episodes," Greenfield wrote.