Netflix subscriber growth slows after pandemic boom, shares fall 11%

Lisa Richwine and Chavi Mehta, Reuters

Posted at Apr 21 2021 04:52 AM

Roughly 3.98 million people signed up for Netflix from January through March, below the 6.25 million average projection of analysts. Mike Blake, Reuters/file

Netflix Inc fell short of Wall Street's projections for new customers in the first quarter, the company said on Tuesday, sending shares down 11%.

Roughly 3.98 million people signed up for Netflix from January through March, below the 6.25 million average projection of analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Netflix forecast just 1 million new streaming customers in the second quarter. Analysts had expected a forecast of nearly 4.8 million.

Shares of Netflix, the world's largest streaming service, sunk 11% in after-hours trading to $489.28.

A year ago, Netflix added a staggering 15.8 million customers as the pandemic forced people around the world to stay home. The company said on Tuesday that the pandemic had brought in a record number of customers in 2020 but also hindered production of new programming.

"These dynamics are also contributing to a lighter content slate in the first half of 2021, and hence, we believe slower membership growth," the company said in its quarterly letter to shareholders.

Rival media companies have declared streaming their priority and are spending billions to compete with Netflix. Walt Disney Co's Disney+ crossed 100 million subscribers in March.

Netflix said it did not believe competition changed materially in the quarter or impacted its new sign-ups "as the over-forecast was across all of our regions."

During the quarter, Netflix lost one of its most popular titles when workplace comedy "The Office" moved to Comcast Corp streaming service Peacock.

Netflix also raised its monthly rates in Britain, Germany, Argentina and Japan during the quarter.

Excluding items, the company earned $3.75 per share, beating analyst estimates of $2.97 per share.

Revenue rose to $7.16 billion from $5.77 billion during the quarter, edging past estimates of $7.13 billion.

Net income rose to $1.71 billion, or $3.75 per share, from $709 million, or $1.57 per share, a year earlier. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Lisa Shumaker)

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