Netflix shares tumble 26% on Q2 outlook
Netflix has been this unstoppable growth train for over a decade but that ended in Q1 2022 with the video streaming company losing 200K paying subscribers (the chart below does not include the Q1 2022 figure). Even if we factor out the 700K loss from Russia it was a big miss against its own guidance of adding 2.5mn. In addition, Netflix is guiding a loss of 2mn paying subscribers in Q2 vs estimates of +2.5mn. The market got spooked sending Netflix shares down 26% in extended trading and to levels 65% below the recent all-time high back in late 2021.
What does that tell us about Netflix and sell-side analysts? It says that both analysts and the company itself have difficulties understanding the post-pandemic demand picture and especially the competitive landscape that is changing with e-sports and gaming, but also the impact from higher inflation. While some households can substitute into lower priced consumer goods when facing inflation the video streaming services are all priced at the same level and are offering the same product, so substitution does not happen. Cancellation is more likely the outcome of inflation.
So what are the drivers that can pull Netflix back to an interesting growth trajectory?
- Advertising models. Netflix could adopt a three-layered pricing model with a free advertising model as the entry followed by an advertising model with less advertisement but a small monthly payment, and finally the advertising-free model with the most expensive subscription. This could widen the distribution and extract more revenue from their global customer base.
- Limiting password sharing. Netflix has a big issue involving password sharing with some estimates suggesting a 3-to-1 factor of logins from non-paying users that have lent a password to those that pay. Making this practice harder could regain some revenue growth.
- E-sport and gaming. With almost a quarter of a billion paying customers Netflix could do more to harness its distribution. The company has previously said that its biggest competition threat is from e-sports and gaming. If Netflix sees itself as an entertainment company rather than a video streaming service making movies and series, then it could aggressively branch into e-sport streaming and even gaming on the platform.
- Improve hit-making. While Netflix did not touch on this issue, the fact is that over the previous year the quality of Netflix productions has deteriorated and the company has not been producing enough hits which is dangerous longer term and must be changed.