Disney may have prompted concerns about Netflix’s viability with a new streaming service. On Tuesday, Netflix offered some of its own reasons for worry.
Earnings figures for the subscription company’s first quarter, announced after the market closed, exceeded analyst expectations. But Netflix’s guidance for the second quarter was shaky, sending the stock down 7 percent in after-hours trading before it reversed course and dropped 1 percent.
In the first quarter, the streaming service increased its global subscriber base by 9.6 million, outpacing analyst expectations of 8.9 million. International subscribers made up 7.86 million of that number, in keeping with the recent trend of higher Netflix growth overseas.
Earnings, meanwhile, came in at 76 cents per share, a good bump over analyst expectations of 58 cents per share. Overall earnings were $4.52 billion, slightly ahead of analyst estimates of $4.50 billion.
But the company reduced its earnings guidance for the second quarter from 99 cents per share to 55 cents, prompting the initial sell-off. The company also said it expects to add about 5 million subscribers in the quarter, about 1 million lower than Wall Street’s expectation.
The guidance comes after Netflix’s announcement in January that it will raise prices between 13 percent and 18 percent, with much of the change happening in the second quarter.
Netflix Chief Financial Officer Spencer Neumann said on an earnings call later in the day that the price hike will slow down growth but played down the significance — “just some temporary churn that enters the system in the midst of rolling out those price changes,” he said. But he also attributed the numbers to a “definite seasonality” related to the second quarter.
Indeed, last year Netflix added just 5 million instead of a projected 6 million global subscribers, and the shortfall caused a notable backlash and new questions. It’s possible Tuesday’s lowered guidance was a way of avoiding that reaction this year.
Netflix’s chief product officer Greg Peters explained the hike as a need to “occasionally go back to our subscribers and ask them to contribute a little bit more so we can find that next cycle of growth.” Netflix is seeking more revenue to find it massive original-programming efforts, one it has to keep going as Disney and other companies pull back their content from the service.
Netflix stock has been up about 30 percent since the beginning of the year, closing at $359.46 Tuesday.
Meanwhile, competitive threats loom. Last week, Disney revealed its new streaming service, called Disney+, which will contain new, recently released and library titles across the company’s major content pillars such as Star Wars, Pixar and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The monthly price, $6.99, is barely half the cost of Netflix’s most popular plan, and Netflix’s stock slid nearly 5 percent the day after the Disney+ unveiling.
Some analysts said, however, that they were not worried about Netflix subscriber attrition because of Disney+, which will launch in November, thanks to Netflix’s wide range of offerings.
“The idea that consumers will choose Disney+ over Netflix seems unrealistic, unless a given consumer’s use case for having Netflix has been limited to watching Disney films,” Deutsche Bank analyst Bryan Kraft wrote in a note.
Bank of America analyst Nat Schindler wrote that his firm was similarly not concerned. “We do not view Disney as the competition,” he said in his note.
Netflix has seen its numbers of movie and TV shows shrink as some companies have pulled them ahead of their own efforts, but it still has nearly 6,000 films and television series, according to a study last year, with a growing proportion of them originals.
Many analysts believe that consumers will pay for both Netflix and Disney+, whose combined price will not go much over $20 per month.
Still, the emergence of Apple, which will launch a streaming service filled with big Hollywood names later this year, and WarnerMedia’s new venture in 2019 could up the bill for many consumers and increase competitive pressure on all streamers.
Netflix played down the threat Tuesday. “We don’t anticipate that these new entrants will materially affect our growth because the transition from linear to on demand entertainment is so massive and because of the differing nature of our content offerings,” it wrote in a letter to shareholders.
On the call, Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings said, “We’re thrilled to have Apple and Disney in. They’re awesome companies. Just to be in the same league as them is very exciting for us.”
The service on Tuesday also released some select figures, including that 52 million households watched the Ben Affleck thriller “Triple Frontier” in its first month on the service; 40 million the John Lee Hancock period crime drama “The Highwaymen”; and 20 million its Fyre Festival documentary “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.” The company in recent quarters has begun offering snippets of information about what it says are its biggest hits.
Netflix s believed to be near 150 million subscribers globally, with about 60 million of them in the United States.