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Netflix adds 8.8 million paid subs in Q4; stock falls as spending weighs on profits

Netflix added 8.8 million paid memberships in the quarter

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MUMBAI: Netflix in its Q4 earnings beat Wall Street expectation in terms of international subscriber growth but the same in its domestic market remains tepid. For the quarter, the online video platform reported 1.5 million domestic subscriber addition and 7.3 million new subscribers internationally.

Netflix posted mixed result in terms of revenue also. The company beat Wall Street estimates on earnings per share (EPS) but fell a bit short on the total revenue. It posted EPS of 30 cents versus 24 cents consensus estimate. On the other hand, against Wall Street's estimation of 4.21 billion revenue, the online video player reported $4.187 billion in revenue.

As a result, Netflix stock fell 4.31 per cent thanks to slower domestic subscriber addition and revenue growth. The most closely watched stock gave the hope of bigger boom among investors. Notably, the copman beat its own projection in terms of subscriber addition. On the back of new 8.8 million global paid memberships in Q4, the subscriber addition went up to 29 million paid subscribers for the full year of 2018. It is clearly 33 per cent higher if compared to 22 million paid subscribers addition in 2017.

“We added a record 8.8 million paid memberships (1.5 million in the US and 7.3 million internationally), higher than our beginning-of-quarter expectation for 7.6 million paid net adds and up 33 per cent year over year. For the full year, paid net adds grew 33 per cent to 29 million versus the 22 million we added in 2017,” the company commented in a letter to shareholders.

Few days ago, Netflix announced its increase in US prices for the first time since 2017. The hike in subscription rate will be applied also to subscribers in Latin American and the Caribbean, where Netflix bills in US dollars. The most popular subscription plan will see the largest hike costing $13 a month, up from $11. Wall Street showed high enthusiasm by sending the stock shooting skyward after the announcement.

“We change pricing from time to time as we continue investing in great entertainment and improving the overall Netflix experience. We want to ensure that Netflix is a good value for the money and that our entry price is affordable. We just increased our US prices for new members, as we did in Q4 in Canada and Argentina, and in Japan in Q3. The new pricing in the US will be phased in for existing members over Q1 and Q2, which we anticipate will lift ASP,” the company added in the letter.

Apart from its well-known and critically acclaimed shows, Netflix is expanding its film market also. As claimed by the company, its films drew bigger attention in the last quarter. Netflix has also mentioned the relevance of international productions again as good ones enjoy viewership both inside and outside the country. “We’re making significant investments in productions all over the world because we have seen that great stories transcend borders,” the OTT platform commented.

For the first quarter of 2019, Netflix forecasts global paid net additions of 8.9 million, with 1.6 million in the US and 7.3 million internationally. The revenue forecast for Q1 19 represents 21 per cent year over year growth.

Next year is going to be a tough one for Netflix as its rivals like Disney, AT&T, NBC Universal, Apple are gearing up for their own online services. Given the strength of Disney’s scale, AT&T’s reach, anyone can assume the intensity of the challenge.

“There are thousands of competitors in this highly-fragmented market vying to entertain consumers and low barriers to entry for those with great experiences. Our growth is based on how good our experience is, compared to all the other screen time experiences from which consumers choose. Our focus is not on Disney+, Amazon or others, but on how we can improve our experience for our members,” Netflix said.

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