Financial Performance

Netflix Subscriber Growth in U.S. Misses Forecast

Netflix's "operations abroad look as promising as ever ... while clouds are beginning to gather in the company's home market."
Matthew HellerJanuary 22, 2020

Netflix beat quarterly earnings estimates but missed its forecast for U.S. subscriber growth for the third straight quarter amid increasing competition.

The streaming giant added 423,000 domestic subscribers in the fourth quarter, compared with its forecast of 600,000 additions and Wall Street estimates of 602,250. It added 8.33 million subscribers internationally, far more than its forecast of 7 million.

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With the big gain in overseas markets, Netflix now has 167 million subscribers worldwide, including 60.4 million in the U.S.

Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver in a scene from Marriage Story.

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix attributed the lower membership growth in the U.S. to “our recent price changes and U.S. competitive launches.” It also said it has a “big head start in streaming” and believes it will “continue to prosper” even in a tougher battleground as the growing number of streaming services will harm traditional TV, not its own business.

Netflix shares rose 2.2% to $345.75 in after-hours trading Tuesday as the company also announced earnings of $1.30 per share, beating estimates of $0.53 per share. Revenue rose 31% to $5.47 billion, ahead of estimates of $5.45 billion.

But according to The Wall Street Journal, “The results underscore that Netflix has two very different stories to tell Wall Street at the moment. Its operations abroad look as promising as ever, without any sign of a significant competitive threat, while clouds are beginning to gather in the company’s home market, where rivals are offering new services and chasing creative talent in Hollywood.”

The rivals include Disney Plus, which launched in the fourth quarter, while WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, and the mobile-video startup Quibi are due to launch in the spring.

To keep its competitive edge, Netflix has invested heavily in original programming, with Oscar-nominated films such as “The Irishman,” “Marriage Story,” and “The Two Popes” being released in the fourth quarter.

For the first quarter, it is projecting about 7 million new subscribers, a drop of 28% from a record 9.6 million in the year-ago period and below Wall Street estimates of 8.9 million.