Netflix subscriber base surges as coronavirus keeps viewers indoors

Streaming giant reported 15.7M global net paid subscriber additions

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Netflix added twice as many global subscribers as expected in the first quarter as people around the world stayed home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced in its earnings report Tuesday.

The streaming giant reported 15.7 million global net paid subscriber additions, doubling its own forecast of seven million subscriber additions before the pandemic’s impact was known. Netflix had nearly 183 million global subscribers as of the end of March.

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Despite the record quarterly growth, Netflix’s earnings and revenue were in line with Wall Street’s expectations. The company posted earnings per share of $1.57, falling short of an expected $1.65 per share, on revenue of $5.77 billion.

“At Netflix, we’re acutely aware that we are fortunate to have a service that is even more meaningful to people confined at home, and which we can operate remotely with minimal disruption in the short to medium term,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a letter to shareholders. “Like other home entertainment services, we’re seeing temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth.”

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
NFLXNETFLIX INC.419.60+5.27+1.27%

Netflix said its international revenue suffered as a result of a strong U.S. dollar relative to currencies outside the country. In addition, the coronavirus pandemic forced Netflix to halt production on upcoming series and delay some content releases.

Company shares spiked as much as 10 percent in after-hours trading when the strong subscriber additions were announced but were up less than 1 percent as Wall Street digested the results.

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Streaming services such as Netflix and Disney+ have experienced a viewership boom during the crisis. Disney+ surpassed 50 million global subscribers within the first five months of its launch, executives announced earlier this month.

“Tiger King,” a Netflix documentary series about zookeeper Joe Exotic and his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot, was watched by 64 million households in the quarter.

Netflix said it expects subscriber growth and viewership to slow down in the upcoming weeks as governments around the world end shelter-in-place orders. The company provided guidance for 7.5 million global subscriber additions in the second quarter but acknowledged the projection was “mostly guesswork” due to uncertainty related to the pandemic.

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“The actual Q2 numbers could end up well below or well above that, depending on many 3 factors including when people can go back to their social lives in various countries and how much people take a break from television after the lockdown,” the letter to shareholders said.

Netflix committed $150 million toward coronavirus response efforts, including the creation of a $100 million fund to support workers in the content production industry.

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