Netflix’s miss could be an anomaly or it could mark the end of a booming era for the streaming giant.
The company characterized the shortfall in new subscribers as a temporary blip and blamed it on programming that “drove less growth in paid net adds that we anticipated.”
If that is true, then Netflix could reverse course with an upcoming content slate that includes Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman”, Michael Bay’s “6 Underground,” and the return of some of its acclaimed hit series like “The Crown” and “Orange is the New Black,” all of which could encourage new sign-ups in coming months.
But is all this prestige content enough to fend off the competition waiting at the gates?
Disney (DIS), Apple (AAPL), NBCUniversal, and CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia are entering the market in the next year and they are bringing with them their own slate of what they hope will be must-see TV. And some are even pulling the shows they licensed to Netflix to use on their own streamer.
“Netflix will have to continue making huge investments and take larger risks to find original hits to bring in subscribers and keep them,” said Jill Rosengard Hill, executive vice president at research-based media firm Magid. That’s challenging because “there’s just so much good content out there,” she said.
This week’s Emmy nominations are a telltale sign that legacy media is coming for Netflix, Hill said. HBO, which is owned by WarnerMedia, led the way with 137 nominations on Tuesday.
“WarnerMedia, Disney and NBCUniversal are now fully awake and are preparing and enhancing their streaming product anywhere and anytime for consumers,” Hill said.
Loup Ventures founding partner Gene Munster told CNBC on Wednesday that Netflix’s best days “are in fact behind it.”
“This is negative, and I think we’re going to look back at this quarter as one of the pivotal moments in the Netflix story,” Munster told CNBC.
BTIG media analyst Rich Greenfield has a more positive outlook.
“There’s this view that Netflix is collapsing, but it raised prices by about 20% and its subscriber count was basically unchanged,” Greenfield told CNN Business. “How many companies can raise price by 20% and keep growing?”
The streamer passed 150 million subscribers in Q2, but severly under-delivered on new paid sign-ups, adding 2.7 million out of the 5 million that analysts expected. It lost 130,000 subscribers in the United States. Netflix’s price increase of $1 to $2 was announced at the start of the year and went into effect over the next few months.
The company said the “missed forecast was across all regions, but slightly more so in regions with price increases.”
In its letter to shareholders on Wednesday, Netflix said that while its US paid memberships were “essentially flat,” the company expects it to “return to more typical growth” in the third quarter. It expects to add another 7 million subscribers in Q3.
Missing from this quarter’s tally is the return of the hit series “Stranger Things,” which launched on Netflix in Q3. It attracted 26.4 million unique viewers in the first four days of its release in the United States, according to Nielsen data. It was “the most watched Netflix original series we’ve ever analyzed,” according to the viewership data company.