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Netflix is a market gold medalist

February 11, 2014: 12:55 PM ET
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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is a champ in Wall Street's version of the Olympics.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Paul R. La Monica. Other than Time Warner, the parent of CNNMoney, Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie, La Monica does not own positions in any individual stocks.

Remember when Netflix blamed the London Olympics in 2012 for a drop in video streaming? That doesn't seem to be an issue with the Winter Games in Sochi.

Shares of Netflix (NFLX) are trading near an all-time high. The company is continuing to bask in the glow of last month's phenomenal earnings report. If there were a gold medal for stocks, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings would be at the top of the podium.

And according to research from networking equipment company Procera (PKT), there was no impact on Netflix's bandwidth usage Friday night, when the opening ceremonies were being aired in the United States.

It makes sense. The Winter Olympics aren't exactly the ratings juggernaut that the Summer Olympics are. What's more, Netflix is a much different company now than it was a year-and-a-half ago.

Related: Costas' eye costs him a night in Olympic anchor seat

Netflix has made a name for itself with its own content, most notably "House of Cards" -- the award-winning political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.

And season 2 debuts (thankfully!) on Friday. (Mrs. Buzz and I are making a Valentine's Day date with Netflix.) Who needs ski jumping and the biathlon when you can watch what Francis Underwood is up to as (spoiler alert!) vice president.

But guess what? In the same way that the Olympics aren't killing Netflix, it appears that Netflix isn't killing off other players in the rapidly changing media landscape either.

Consider this. Outerwall (OUTR), the awfully named parent company of Redbox and Coinstar, is also trading near an all-time high. The stock surged last week following a solid earnings report that showed a nearly 40% jump in operating income at Redbox.

Outerwall is still predominantly an "old media" firm, offering DVDs for rental through its Redbox kiosks. But the company is trying to become more like Netflix.

It operates the Redbox Instant video streaming service in partnership with Verizon (VZ). And Redbox also made an interesting personnel move recently that could signal aspirations of getting into the content business as well.

Related: Are Netflix and other tech stocks the new safe havens?

Last week, Outerwall said it hired Mark Horak, formerly president of the Americas at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, as the new president of Redbox. Warner Bros., like CNNMoney, is owned by Time Warner (TWX).

Speaking of content, there's a little media firm you may have heard of with a rodent as a mascot that's also doing quite well lately. Disney (DIS) is at an all-time high thanks to strong growth at its ESPN unit, and the box office success of "Frozen."

So for all the talk about how the future of media lies in watching streamed videos on tablets or other mobile devices, people obviously still like that analog media experience of watching television in the living room and going to the movie theater.

But it's not as if Disney is shunning new media either. In fact, the company is working very closely with Netflix. Disney's Marvel unit announced last November that it is producing four new series and a miniseries based on Marvel superhero characters that will stream exclusively on Netflix in 2015.

Disney and Netflix also inked a deal in late 2012 that will give Netflix the right to air theatrical versions of new Disney movies after they run in theaters, starting in 2016. That deal covers Marvel and Pixar as well as Disney Animation. Netflix won these rights from cable channel Starz (STRZA).

What's that mean? Say you want to watch Disney/Pixar's "Finding Dory" -- the eagerly-awaited sequel to "Finding Nemo" that's due to hit multiplexes in the summer of 2016 (not fast enough for Buzz, Jr.) -- on TV after its theatrical run. You'd better get a Netflix streaming subscription. It won't be on cable.

Related: Disney workers try to get more pay, better benefits

Both of these deals are brilliant moves on the part of Netflix. Despite critical acclaim for "House of Cards" and other exclusive series such as "Orange is the New Black" and "Lilyhammer," Netflix's allure isn't solely due to its own content. It only has a handful of original shows.

Subscriber growth hasn't just been fueled by Netflix's own programs. It's also about being able to binge watch shows that have already aired on cable TV like "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men." Netflix needs big media firms like Disney as much as Disney needs Netflix.

And the fact that a Netflix competitor and a major media company that supplies content to Netflix are also at record highs is a clear sign that Netflix is not the only game in town. The world of "new media" is still evolving. I haven't even mentioned Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN) or Hulu for example.

Winning a silver or bronze in this market is nothing to be ashamed of. There is plenty of money to go around for companies in the business of making and distributing content.

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Paul Lamonica
Paul R. La Monica
Assistant Managing Editor, CNNMoney

Paul R. La Monica is an assistant managing editor at CNNMoney. He is the author of the site's daily column, The Buzz, and also tweets throughout the day about the markets and economy @LaMonicaBuzz. La Monica also oversees the site's economic, markets and technology coverage.

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