Netflix's original content will allow it to raise prices more than expected, Morgan Stanley says

Key Points
  • Morgan Stanley reiterates its overweight rating on Netflix shares, citing the economies of scale from its large subscriber base.
  • "Longer term we see the ability to drive ARPU [average revenue per user] growth, particularly given increased original programming traction," the firm's analyst writes.
Fans gather at the Netflix booth at a trade show.
Mike Blake | Reuters

Netflix's strong growth in international markets and its ability to raise prices will boost its shares, according to one top Wall Street firm.

Morgan Stanley reiterated its overweight rating on Netflix shares, citing the economies of scale from its large subscriber base.

"We believe share performance is highly dependent on increasing global membership scale. Proven success in the US and initial int'l markets provides a roadmap to success in new markets, and scale should allow Netflix to leverage content investments and drive margins," analyst Benjamin Swinburne wrote in a note to clients Thursday.

Over the longer term, Swinburne says Netflix has the ability to generate growth in average revenue per user, especially given its increase in original programming.

He increased his price target to $255 from $235 for Netflix shares. The new target is 17 percent higher than Wednesday's closing price.

The analyst said Netflix's penetration of broadband-enabled households in international markets outside of China rose to 13 percent last year from 9 percent in 2016.

"These markets also grew despite a generally higher price point for consumers and benefited more from Netflix original programming than prior markets in prior years," Swinburne wrote.

In the last three years, Netflix's annual average revenue per user has grown 10 percent, and "this suggests our long-term forecast of +4-5% could be conservative," the note said.

Netflix is one of the market's best-performing stocks. Its shares have rallied 63 percent in the previous 12 months through Wednesday versus the S&P 500's 23 percent gain.

The company's shares were up 1 percent midday Thursday.

— CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this story.