Netflix has committed to spend a whopping $15.3 billion on streaming content

Reed Hastings, Netflix
Steve Marcus | Reuters

Netflix has content spending obligations of over $15 billion, according to a Monday earnings release.

The company's streaming content obligations have risen to $15.3 billion, up from $12.3 billion a year ago. This year alone, the company has said it expects to spend $6 billion, though Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter puts the figure closer to $7 billion.

But the eye-popping spending is part of a long-term bet on one of the company's biggest strengths, Michael Graham, ‎managing director and senior internet analyst at Canaccord Genuity told CNBC's "Closing Bell" on Monday.

"The company is actually trying to manage down the amount of content that it's licensing from other people," Graham said. "The plan there really is to draw subscribers to the service with content that Netflix builds and produces on its own, and that Netflix owns and doesn't have to pay royalties on. So what that does is it enables margins to expand over time."

Series like "Stranger Things," both produced and owned by Netflix, represent the content that will distinguish Netflix, thanks to appeal in multiple demographics, the company said last year.

For instance, the company's earnings release featured search queries for its original content, showing which big launches are drawing interest from users:

That's important as companies like Amazon, Hulu and HBO double down on their own original content.

"It's becoming an arms race," said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna. "There are so many more parties that are competing for content and are bidding up the prices."

Still, some analysts are not as optimistic with the company's ballooning spending — unlike Amazon, Netflix has few other revenue streams that could offset the content's costs. Plus, the company is risking spending big on a flop.

"The problem that Netflix has compared to other competitors is Netflix doesn't have any other business to leverage against," Verna said.

— With reporting by CNBC's Michelle Castillo