Netflix added a record number of paid streaming customers for a single quarter though it expects subscriber growth to lose some steam from April through June.
The streaming entertainment service grew its total subscriber count by 9.6 million to 153.9 million worldwide in the first quarter. Additions were particularly strong internationally, at 7.86 million, compared with 1.74 million new members in the U.S.
The previous record gain was 8.84 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Analysts had expected increases of 1.61 million U.S. subscribers and 7.31 million overseas.
Netflix also reported that revenue rose 22.2% year over year to $4.52 billion while earnings jumped 18.8% to 76 cents per share. Estimates were for earnings of 57 cents per share on revenue of $4.50 billion.
But the company provided light guidance for the second quarter, estimating earnings per share of 55 cents, compared with the 99 cents analysts were expecting, and predicting subscriber growth of only 5 million people. The consensus estimate was for a 5.48 million increase.
“What’s making investors nervous is that there are signs of a slowdown in the second-quarter subscriber growth,” said Haris Anwar, senior analyst at Investing.com. “This is made all the more prominent by the looming threat of competition from Disney and Apple.”
As Reuters reports, Netflix has been “spending billions to attract new customers while Disney and Apple Inc. build streaming rivals and Amazon.com Inc. makes gains with audiences.” The Disney Plus service will launch in the U.S. later this year for $7 a month.
Netflix’s aggressive spending has led to a tripling of the company’s debt to $10.36 billion in 2018 from $3.36 billion in 2016.
But in its letter to shareholders, Netflix downplayed the threat of new competitors, saying, “We don’t anticipate that these new entrants will materially affect our growth because the transition from linear to on-demand entertainment is so massive and because of the differing nature of our content offering.”
“We believe there is vast demand for watching great TV and movies and Netflix only satisfies a small portion of that demand,” the company added.