Investing in Big Tech is a gamble. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the frontrunner Democrat for president, wants to break up Silicon Valley giants. But one tech stock might be insulated from that threat.
Netflix may be the only FAANG company — Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google — that wouldn’t be subject to Warren’s plan to disband big tech. Some of Netflix’s disadvantages, like steep streaming competition, are actually beneficial when it comes to the political, and possibly regulatory, crackdown on tech.
“Netflix has not so far run into any of the controversies that any of the other FAANG stocks have,” said Jim Nail, principal analyst at research firm Forrester. “They’re not doing advertisements, and they’re not using data in ways that some of these other companies are.”
Netflix probably couldn’t be accused of having too much monopoly power either, as streaming competition increases with the launch of Apple TV+, Disney+, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, around the corner.
US Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed in a blog post in March to break up Google, Facebook and Amazon. Shortly after, in an interview with The Verge, Warren said she thinks Apple should be broken apart, too. She said that the company should not be able to run the App Store and sell its own apps on it.
In light of Warren’s plan to break up big tech, BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Salmon made Netflix his top tech stock over e-commerce giant Amazon.
“We continue to seek out how the legal path might progress for these types of actions, but in the short term, we think it’s appropriate to move Netflix to top pick and Amazon to number two,” Salmon wrote in a note to clients.
“We have less confidence in the subject being a wall of worry to climb and instead increasingly clouding the fundamental thesis for Amazon,” he wrote. “Netflix, on the other hand, faces little to no regulatory risk.”
Warren did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Warren is not the only one to vouch for a big tech crackdown. Criticism against big tech companies is coming from left, right and center. The US government is targeting tech companies for issues ranging from violation of users’ privacy to monopolistic behavior.
Policymakers in Washington have increasingly focused on complaints of anti-competitive behavior concerning Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. The Justice Department launched in July a formal antitrust review of the nation’s biggest tech companies. Although those companies were not named by the Justice Department, the agency indicated it will look into areas where those companies are dominant players.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on Friday. The Federal Trade Commission said it can’t comment on Netflix specifically.
Breaking up a big company, however, is a complex process. Even under the most radical vision of some of the progressives who are raising concerns in this area, the antitrust laws don’t break up companies because they’re large, said David Balto, an antitrust attorney and former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission’s competition bureau.
“The antitrust laws would speak to break up companies if they were engaging in profound anti-competitive conduct, and if there was no remedy short of divestiture that really could solve the competitive problem,” Balto said. “That’s a universe that is very far away from where we’re at today. I just don’t see a basis for talking about break ups of either of these companies.”
For now, those concerns don’t apply to Netflix, said Jim Nail an analyst at Forrester.
“So far, it seems like Netflix is all good for the consumer. They’re getting lots of content at a very low price. And a lot of Netflix’s content would probably not have been produced in the traditional movie and television studios system. So it’s creating more choice for consumers, and legislators and regulators tend to think that more choice for consumers is a good thing,” he said.
“I don’t see any reason they [Netflix] would eventually come into the crosshairs.”