As streaming competition increased, pandemic constraints eased and live sports returned to television, Netflix Inc on Tuesday reported its lowest subscriber growth in four years.
During the quarter that ended Sept. 30, Netflix recorded 2.2 million rise in paying subscriber count globally, missing Wall Street’s aim of 3.4 million and its own outlook.
At $1.74, earnings per share also dropped below analyst estimates. According to IBES data from Refinitiv, the consensus forecast was $2.14.
Netflix stock, one of the biggest winners this year as people stayed home in the midst of the pandemic, fell nearly 6% on Tuesday to $494 in after-hours trading.
“Domestic subscribers were almost unchanged, which shows the saturation of Netflix in the U.S.,” said eMarketer analyst Ross Benes. With slowing domestic additions, revenue growth is likely to come from price increases, he said.
At the start of the worldwide corona virus pandemic, the company announced a blockbuster fifth, adding 15.8 million paying customers from January through March.
Netflix had warned investors that a sudden increase in new sign-ups would fade in the latter half of the year as COVID-19 restrictions eased. In the fourth quarter, Netflix projected it will pull in 6 million new viewers across the globe, short of the 6.51 million anticipated by analysts.
As audiences accept online entertainment, the digital media pioneer is seeking to attract new clients and fight off competition. “Emily in Paris”, “Enola Holmes” and “The Devil All the Time” were released by Netflix during the third quarter.
Netflix recognised that rivalry was rising as studios from Walt Disney Co to AT&T Inc’s WarnerMedia across Hollywood have restructured to compete more directly for video subscribers.
Competition remains vibrant for customer time and engagement, “Netflix said in a letter to shareholders.”
Major sports have resumed play in recent months and nascent streaming platforms, including AT&T’s HBO Max and Comcast Corp’s Peacock, have introduced new options to viewers.
Netflix said its findings mirrored the fact that early in the year it saw such a huge increase in customers.
In the sense of the long-term adoption of internet entertainment, we continue to view quarter-to – quarter volatility in pay net adds as not so important, which we believe is still early and should provide us with several years of good future growth as we continue to develop our service, “the company said.”
Netflix officials noted that in the first nine months of 2020 , the company had taken in more viewers than in all of 2019. With 195.2 million global streaming clients, it finished the third quarter.
“Next time we get together, we should be over 200 million members, completing a year of 34 million (additions),” an annual record, Co-Chief Executive Reed Hastings said in an analyst interview.
The company also announced that it plans to complete the shooting of over 150 productions by the end of the year and that more original content will be published in each quarter of 2021 compared to 2020.
In the third quarter, sales rose 22.7 percent to $6.44 billion, edging past expectations of $6.38 billion.
Net income grew from $665.2 million, or $1.47 per share, a year ago, to $790 million, or $1.74 per share, in the quarter.