Netflix tumbles on subscriber woes

The latest earnings report from Netflix rattled investors and sent the stock tumbling in afterhours trading and languishing during yesterday’s session.

Netflix was off 17% on Wednesday evening and, despite paring gains during trading yesterday, closed 11% lower.

According to the new numbers, Netflix lost 130,000 customers in the US during the second-quarter. It’s the first time the streaming service has reported dwindling subscriber numbers in eight years. Analysts had expected US subscriber numbers to grow 352,000 across the period.

Netflix is well established in the US, and overseas is where the true growth potential lies. But the numbers here are disappointing as well, with Netflix managing to add just under half (2.83 million) paid subscribers in international territories of the 4.8 million forecast by analysts.

Netflix stumbles as competitors line up

It’s a worrying sign of weakness at a time when competition in the video on demand space is heating up. Apple, Disney, AT&T and Comcast all have streaming services in the works. The launch of these will see popular content disappear from Netflix.

For instance, Disney’s streaming service will be the exclusive home of Marvel and Star Wars movie. The two most-streamed shows on Netflix – The Office and Friends – will soon been removed as they head to Comcast’s streaming platform and HBO Max, run by AT&T, respectively.

Netflix said in a letter to shareholders that it believed the second-quarter “content slate” was less appealing than it had anticipated, driving fewer signups. The company also noted that subscription rates had slowed slightly more in regions where prices have recently increased than in those where the cost has remained unchanged.

Can Netflix afford not to raise prices?

This could reveal that Netflix is in a tricky position. With so many competitors, Netflix may find itself unable to raise prices as users can easily switch to an alternative video on demand service. But in order to stay attractive Netflix needs to continue investing heavily in content – and this does not come cheap.

Netflix has enjoyed a long run as the King of streaming. But it’s an expensive crown to keep, and the coming few quarters will see many new challengers to the throne step forward.