Updated from Sept. 23 to include comments from Jim Cramer.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Netflix (NFLX – Get Report) is no longer content just being the world’s biggest video streaming service.
It now wants to become the world’s biggest media company, surpassing Walt Disney (DIS – Get Report) , according to multiple people familiar with the company’s thinking.
Netflix’s goal, according to these people, is to have close to 500 million subscribers around the world, a huge jump from the roughly 65 million who pay for the service now. To do that, Netflix is expanding its global presence far beyond what it has announced publicly. Besides gaining entry into countries like Japan and Australia, the company has signaled its intention to go after the big prize — China.
The task won’t be easy. A number of big players like Amazon (AMZN – Get Report) , Sling TV (DISH) and Verizon (VZ) already offer their own streaming services. In addition, Apple (AAPL – Get Report) is rumored to be launching its own streaming service sometime next year.
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On top of that, content providers are openly questioning the value of providing their shows to Netflix. "Where’s Netflix without our great content?," Discovery Communications (DISCA) CEO David Zaslav complained recently.
Netflix, of course, has started creating its own content, including the popular House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. But the competition there is also fierce, with new players jumping in all the time.
"Netflix is about to expand to every country in the world," said TheStreet’s Jim Cramer. "It is the leader in original content that works everywhere. When I spoke to Reed Hastings on CNBC’s MAD MONEY last Friday it was pretty clear that Netflix will be the world’s first network and I like the stock."
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All that hasn’t deterred Netflix. The company, led by CEO Reed Hastings, has consistently said that as Internet TV becomes the main source of video entertainment, companies will have to provide a broad range of services to survive.
"Over the following decades, Internet TV will replace linear, and we hope to keep leading by offering an amazing entertainment experience," Netflix says on its investor relations site.
A Netflix spokesman declined to comment for this story.
To expand, Netflix will need to continue working with Internet device makers and teaming up with media companies in other countries, allowing users to sign up and get a month or two free. The goal is to become what RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney calls an "entertainment utility."
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