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Netflix adds 8.5 million users in Q4, blowing away estimates

Daniel Howley
·Technology Editor
·4-min read

Netflix (NFLX) reported its Q4 2020 earnings after the closing bell on Tuesday, with the company soundly beating expectations for paid subscriber growth in the quarter, though earnings per share missed.

Here’s how the company performed in the quarter versus what analysts were expecting as compiled by Bloomberg.

  • Revenue: $6.64 billion versus $6.63 billion expected

  • Earnings per share: $1.19 versus $1.36 expected

  • Global paid subscriber additions: 8.51 million versus 6.03 million expected

The company’s stock was up more than 8% following the news.

In a statement, the company said it added 37 million paid memberships in 2020 and achieved $25 billion in annual revenue, a 24% increase year-over-year.

Netflix’s stock price in recent months has been a victim of its own success. The company was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the lockdowns and closures of entertainment venues caused by the pandemic. In the first nine months of 2020, the streaming service added an incredible 28.1 million paid subscribers, outpacing the 27.8 million it added in all of 2019.

But that dramatic increase in new users early in the year meant slower growth in Q3, with the platform adding just 2.2 million new subscribers compared to the 3.3 million analysts were expecting.

Netflix’s stock price fell 4.5% between the Q3 earnings report and the Q4 report compared to the S&P 500, which gained 9.4% in the same period.

FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. Netflix picked up nearly 16 million global subscribers during the first three months of the year, helping cement its status as one of the world's most essential services in times of isolation or crisis. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
FILE - This Jan. 29, 2010, file photo shows the company logo and view of Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif. Netflix picked up nearly 16 million global subscribers during the first three months of the year, helping cement its status as one of the world's most essential services in times of isolation or crisis. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Still, analysts were upbeat coming into this most recent earnings report.

“Looking forward we remain positive on the long term prospects for streaming media and NFLX's respective role in it,” UBS’s Eric Sheridan wrote in a recent analyst note.

See also: Netflix has a high bar to clear as 2021 movie blitz takes shape, earnings in focus

Piper Sandler analyst Yung Kim offered a similar tone in a recent note, writing, “As consumers engage in less leisure travel and out-of-home entertainment, we believe Netflix could continue to benefit from a bump in sub adds as well as mitigated churn.”

Content for Netflix continues to be king, and that was proven more than ever during Q4.

“In its first 28 days, more member households chose to watch season four of ‘The Crown’ than each of the prior seasons, helping to grow the number of member households that have chosen to watch this series to over 100m since its initial launch,” the company reported.

“The Queens Gambit” saw similar success with 62 million households watching in its first 28 days, making the show Netflix’s biggest limited series to date.

Of course, Netflix also has a whole raft of new competition to contend with in the streaming video space. Outside of traditional rivals like Amazon’s (AMZN) Prime Video and Hulu, the company now has to fight off Disney+ (DIS), which added 73.7 million subscribers in its first year of availability; as well as HBO Max (T), which now has 57 million subscribers.

To fight back, Netflix will unveil a slew of new content in 2021. The company recently announced that it will release a new movie every week this year, including “Malcom and Marie,” which is already getting plenty of attention from critics, and “Don’t Look Up,” which has a star-studded cast including Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jonah Hill.

Netflix’s competitors aren’t sitting still, either, though. Disney+ will have an onslaught of new content in the offering in 2021, including shows from its biggest franchises: Marvel and “Star Wars.”

That’s a win for us couch potatoes, but what that means for Netflix remains to be seen.

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