At the end of most days, I typically take the opportunity to do what I had forgotten to do for most of the previous twelve hours…stop and take a breath. Ignoring the fact that I remain at least 80% of my former glory- a self-proclaimed, don’t harsh my mellow hippie, there are still some disciplines that I left behind from my younger and more relaxed way of life. And then I found Gaia.
Gaia, Inc. (GAIA) delivers to me the moments of tranquility that I need to stay centered. Gaia offers me a host of lifestyle, personal growth related content, and a range of cutting-edge documentary features that empower me with the ability to find and keep my chi, keeping me well balanced and surrounded by a healthy and vibrant colored aura. Now, bear in mind, those are the benefits that GAIA can deliver, and because they make it easy to access, there is no one to blame except me for any foul mood possessed during my day.
Over the months, there has been a wide range of opinion about how GAIA can stay relevant in the video on demand industry. Facing power players like Netflix (NFLX), Youtube, Amazon Fire (AMZN), and a growing number of potential competitors that can enter the same low barrier space, some think that the company will face stiff competition and lose market share. Well, the quick response is that not only can GAIA stay relevant, but they can also be the leader in the space.
The Vision Of Peace Today
There is not a whole lot of need to spend too many characters explaining the early days of the company, but a cursory overview can suffice. Founded in 1988, GAIA was the survivor from Gaiam, Inc., a Louisville, Colorado company. The company operates a digital video subscription and on-line community on a worldwide basis. The service provides a digital subscription based model that provides unlimited access to streaming video services, with availability to access titles from a library of inspiring films, personal growth, yoga classes, and transformation related content. In addition to well-produced documentaries and inspirational titles, features also include inspiring interviews and unique user-focused content.
The company has been somewhat hard to decipher, but there are at least two issues that continue to trigger my buy-side emotions. First, I believe that CEO, Jirka Rysavy is a genius at what he does. Historically, he has turned thousands of dollars into millions of dollars and has taken small and micro-sized companies are fortified them into cash cow operations, and most recently cashed in on some of that growth by selling two non-core assets that he believed stood in the way of the strategic moves envisioned at the company.
Making money in the VOD space is about three things….subscriber growth, subscriber growth, and subscriber growth. Good thing that’s how GAIA can earn money, since the company’s paid subscriber growth increased by over 52% to 202,000 paid subscribers, up from 133,000 paid subscribers at the end of 2015. Of the 52% growth, 6% of that number was achieved in the fourth quarter, showing that momentum is clearly in place. From management’s perspective, they are ahead of paid subscriber growth models, and management continues to guide for continued growth during the next several years.
From the most recent fourth quarter filing, management expects to keep the growth intact, targeting continued gains of between 4% and 10% per quarter. Keeping the momentum can prove beneficial to shareholders, as the target growth number for 2017 is to increase paid subscription clients by 80%. At current growth levels, they are on target to meet or beat, that guidance.
What They Offer
GAIA is keeping it simple, and it’s a philosophy that is harder to replicate than many tend to believe. Despite the thousands of available and similar yoga and transformation videos available on the web, few stand close in comparison to what the team is putting forth to its subscribers. From the user experience aspect alone, the quality and expertise exuded in the production content are clearly superior to others that try to stake a claim as an expert or guru in the field. It’s for this reason that its corporate vision continues to grow, and credibility is the prime cause.
The company is running off of its newly developed website that was built to optimize speed and performance and to provide a personalized experience for each subscriber. The goal is for GAIA to leverage upon this newly developed and stronger infrastructure capability, enabling service expansion plans into foreign languages later in 2017.
Additionally, GAIA has invested in their retention technology, launching a new Android, iOS, ROKU and Fire TV apps. With cash capital needed to support the consistent growth, the company is taking advantage of its well-capitalized balance sheet, where two recently sold non-core assets delivered over $125 million to boost the balance sheet. Although a good portion was used to straighten out the books and offset prior net operating losses, the company kept the bulk of the share, and now holds roughly $54 million in cash and continues to carry absolutely no debt on the books. Additional assets include a 150,000 square foot unencumbered headquarters in Colorado, with real-time estimates suggesting a fair market value of between $18- $24 million dollars. But, real estate is tough to call, and while I believe that the building has a floor value at the low end of the range, the actual value depends on what a buyer is willing to pay to an uninterested seller. Thus, the hard assets can quickly fetch upwards of $25 million in a tight market, based on nearby comparables.
Having the cash on hand is a most useful asset, and this capital has facilitated the steady growth. GAIA now offers subscriber reach to about 140 different countries and territories, supported by the growing U.S. library that has built its content to include over 77,000 unique titles. Importantly, over 80% of the content viewed by paid subscribers was original and internally produced artistic content.
Follow The Leader
I have had investors tell me that they are in this stock because they believe that Mr. Rysavy can deliver what he promises, in this case, robust paid subscriber growth and aggressive return on capital. To compliment his skill, GAIA can run relatively inexpensive to many of its peers. While it costs Amazon and Netflix billions a year to stay in business, GAIA can run with less capital exposure, banking on the lack of inventory and storage pressures felt by other providers in the space.
Investors, myself included, also like the careful and strategic positioning being set in place by management. Well managed and focused on attracting what is needed to grow the business, expectations are that less waste and targeted opportunity will be the norm for GAIA management going forward. They demonstrated their willingness to stay lean, profiting from what they did not feel was necessary to their growth and have established quite a formidable cash account. This offers GAIA the ability to test the waters, indiscriminately, to see what subscribers want to add to the service offering.
Other than potentially becoming the sector leader, GAIA will offer customers a better way of life. Not to sound naive, but keeping things simple certainly has its benefits. With instructional and partner videos offering yoga, transformation, interviews, and inspirational dialogue, paid subscribers have years worth of content at their fingertips that can drive personal growth and healthy and suggestive way’s to live their life. Nothing about what GAIA is doing is rocket science. However, saying that something is not rocket science and assuming that there are no similarities is also quite naive. What GAIA is doing is phenomenal, and although the market niche that they are beginning to exploit may be relatively small, it is a space that is gaining considerable traction in people’s lives.
While I can no longer stretch too deeply into a Triangle Pose, I still do quite well in both the Warrior and Tree poses. But, beyond yoga, GAIA offers much more to paid subscribers and it’s the internal metrics that will ultimately drive paid rates higher, leading to the company delivering increased shareholder value as a result.
With a strong asset base in hand, and a consistent drive in paid subscribers, GAIA may be the most peaceful investment investors will hold in quite a while. And, while maybe a pun was intended, it is true that GAIA may very well be immune from the volatile market dynamics and keep its share price isolated from the beasts of Wall Street. While this stock may not bring an investor 100% gains in a matter of days like some of the high flying, fickle minded biotech stocks can do, the likelihood that GAIA may continue to deliver stable and consistent results is quite probable.
At the end of the day, when people reflect on their day, reminiscing of battles won and lost, GAIA may at least offer a service to help reconcile the issues. And, for anyone that can get that satisfaction, as well as a comfortable investment, it may certainly lead some to change their meditative mantra, which is somewhat off of the recommended charts. Perhaps not for everyone, but it has worked for at least a few, the deep throttled tone repeating “melikegaia” for thirty minutes a day, may bring some good karma to the investment.
Additional Disclosure: I have no position in any stock mentioned, but may initiate a long position in GAIA stock or Options within the next 72 hours.
This article was originally featured on CNA Finance