Netflix Just Misses Q3 Subscriber Growth Estimates; Shares Up Regardless

Netflix Oct. 16 said it added 6.77 million subscribers in the third quarter (ended Sept. 30). The tally was 230,000 fewer than the subscription streaming video pioneer had projected — but up 700,000 subs from the previous-year period.

In the U.S., paid net sub adds totaled 500,000, down from 800,000 forecast and 998,000 a year earlier. It ended the period with 60.6 million domestic subs compared to 56.9 million in the previous-year period.

The SVOD behemoth has added 2.1 million domestic subs through nine months of the fiscal year compared with 4.1 million in the first nine months of 2018.

Netflix ended the fiscal period with 158.33 million subs worldwide compared to 130.42 million subs during the previous-year period.

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In the shareholder letter, CEO Reed Hastings and CFO Spencer Neumann tried sugarcoating the sub growth miss as a result of management’s desire to “strive for accuracy” in fiscal disclosures.

“In Q3, our guidance forecast was our most accurate in recent history,” they wrote.

Netflix cited the recent domestic price hike for undermining sub retention from pre-price-change levels in the U.S.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based service has revised downward global Q4 sub growth estimates to 7.6 million from 8.8 million a year ago, with 600,000 in the U.S. and 7 million for the international segment.

The projection suggests Netflix would add 26.7 million subs in 2019, down from 28.6 million last year.

Again, management alluded to “less precision” in its ability to forecast the impact of the current Q4 content slate, which consists of several new big IP launches (as opposed to returning seasons), the elevated sub churn in response to price changes, and forthcoming competition, i.e. Apple TV+, Disney+.

“While the new competitors have some great titles (especially catalog titles), none have the variety, diversity and quality of new original programming that we are producing around the world,” Hastings & Neumann wrote.

Indeed, the service said revenue growth has accelerated as domestic ARPU increased 16.5% from the previous-year period.

“With more revenue, we’ll continue to invest to improve our service to further strengthen our value proposition,” they wrote. “Our long term outlook on our business is unchanged.”

Finally, Netflix’s legacy by-mail disc rental service ended the period with more than 2.2 million subs, down from 2.8 million last year. The segment continues to generate substantial profits with more than $44 million added to the bottom line. That was down from contribution income of $51.6 million last year.

Wall Street welcomed Netflix’s increase profit (up 65% to $665 million) and relatively flat sub additions. Shares increased more than 8% in aftermarket trading.


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