A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.
It’s a good time to be a company whose business booms when people stay at home. But even Netflix (NFLX), which is experiencing surging subscriber growth, may face tougher times ahead.
The latest: The company said after US markets closed on Tuesday that it had added a stunning 16 million subscribers between January and March as the coronavirus pandemic led people to hunker down and binge on hit docuseries such as “Tiger King” and reality shows like “Love is Blind,” my CNN Business colleague Frank Pallotta reports.
Netflix now has 183 million subscribers globally and expects to add another 7.5 million in the second quarter. Its first-quarter profit more than doubled compared to the same period in 2019.
This performance helps explain why the company’s stock has gained 34% this year while the S&P 500 has lost more than 15%. Its shares held steady in premarket trading.
But Netflix is still worried about the future. “In our 20+ year history, we have never seen a future more uncertain or unsettling,” the company said in a letter to shareholders.
New series coming: Netflix’s content chief officer Ted Sarandos assured analysts that the company won’t be starved for content in the near term due to production shutdowns.
“We work really far out relative to the industry because we launch our shows all episodes at once,” he said, noting that Netflix’s 2020 slate of series and films “are largely shot and are in postproduction.”
Yet 2021 could be trickier. The company also expects subscriber growth and viewing to wane once lockdowns end and people can return to a more regular daily routine.
Stay-at-home orders are helping Netflix’s competitors, too. Disney+, Disney’s new streaming service, crossed the 50 million subscriber mark earlier this month. And HBO Max, the streaming service from CNN parent AT&T, will launch on May 27.
“I’ve been so impressed with Disney+’s execution,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Tuesday. “My hat’s off to them.”
Also strong: Snap (SNAP) shares are up nearly 20% in premarket trading after the company said Tuesday that the coronavirus outbreak has led to a spike in usage.
The collapse in oil prices is going global
Oil prices continued their epic crash on Wednesday as Brent crude futures, the main benchmark for global contracts, plunged by as much as 17% to their lowest level since 1999.
Remember: The collapse follows a historic rout on Monday when US oil for May delivery traded at negative prices as the combination of evaporating demand due to the pandemic, oversupply and a critical lack of storage saw traders effectively paying people to take American crude off their hands.
US oil futures for June also remained depressed on Wednesday, and were last down 0.8% at $11.47 a barrel.
Investors are worried about oil hubs running out of room to store barrels that nobody wants as the coronavirus pandemic causes demand for crude to disappear. JPMorgan strategists predict that as refineries slow down processing, storage at the hub in Cushing, Oklahoma and on the West Coast will fill up by May 22.
Watch this space: With a wave of bankruptcies and layoffs on the horizon, US President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that his administration is developing a plan to bail out the oil and gas sector.
Paging OPEC: Several members of the OPEC+ alliance discussed the price crash on a conference call on Tuesday, although key members including Saudi Arabia and Russia did not take part, according to Reuters.
How bad is the airline crisis? Look to Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines is the first airline to report first quarter results Wednesday morning in what promises to be a miserable quarter for carriers.
Low expectations: Analysts surveyed by FactSet project operating losses of at least $2 billion for US airlines between January and March, my CNN Business colleague Chris Isidore reports. It would be the first industry-wide quarterly loss in eight years.
Before coronavirus hit and air traffic plunged, the industry had been enjoying the greatest period of profitability in its history.
Mergers and a strong economy, had boosted travel, producing packed airplanes and strong profits. None of the four major airlines that control 80% of the US market — American, Delta, United and Southwest — has reported even a single quarter of losses in more than five years.
This is the week that all changes.
Delta Air Lines (DAL), Ericsson (ERIC), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), AT&T (T) and Biogen (BIIB) report results before US markets open. Alcoa (AA) and CSX (CSX) follow after the close.
Also today: US government data on crude oil inventories arrives at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: How many Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week? Economists surveyed by Reuters expect another 4.15 million initial claims.