Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) didn't win over too many fans with last night's quarterly report.
Between the lackluster growth with its domestic streaming subscribers and its uninspiring guidance for the current quarter, Netflix investors are getting clobbered.
It didn't have to be this way.
On Monday, I went over four things that I would love to hear Netflix say in its quarterly letter to shareholders and conference call on Tuesday.
I almost got one, but it wasn't enough. Let's go over the four remarks, and how things actually went down.
1. "We won't be posting a loss in the fourth quarter."
Netflix warned that it would be in the red during the holiday quarter three months ago, and that's not changing.
"As expected, in Q4, we will likely move to a consolidated loss because of our initial launch investment in the Nordics," reads yesterday's shareholder letter.
The early rollout into Scandinavian -- executed seamlessly as Netflix entered four new countries with its streaming video service last week -- isn't going to change that.
However, I should point out that the high end of Netflix's guidance does hint at the possibility of black ink for the period. Netflix's guidance for the new quarter calls for as much as a deficit of $0.23 a share to as much as a profit of $0.04 a share.
2. "DVD renters are holding up better than we projected."
This is one thing that the company almost said.
Netflix closed out the quarter with 630,000 fewer disc-based accounts than it had three months earlier. That may seem grim, but it's actually the fewest sequential net defections -- on both an absolute and percentage basis -- that the company has experienced in more than a year.
The 8.61 million total subscribers that Netflix had at the end of September was at the high end of its earlier outlook, which called for closing out the quarter with between 8.35 million and 8.65 million DVD-based members.
We know that the DVD as a media form is fading, but it's not going to die anytime soon. Analysts see Redbox parent Coinstar (Nasdaq: CSTR ) posting a 21% surge in revenue when it reports tomorrow. If Netflix can hold on here -- as the one segment of the company's business that is in decline but is still its more profitable division -- the company may be in better shape than the worrywarts predict.
The midpoint of Netflix's guidance for the new quarter calls for just 610,000 net cancellations. This trend isn't likely to ever reverse, but deceleration is a good thing.
It was an odd choice. He didn't resign from any of the other prolific boards that he sits on. Hastings also sits on Facebook's (Nasdaq: FB ) board, and there are no indications that he wants out of the leading social networking website operator's brain trust.
One would think that he can do Netflix more good than harm by staying close to the world's largest software company, but my hope that there was a grand reason that Hastings would reveal during the call.
We didn't get anything on that front.
It's just as well. A Netflix smartphone or tablet would probably be as big a bomb as John Carter.
4. "We're considering pay-per-view streams for premium content."
I don't care how many times Netflix denies that this will happen, I'm not dropping it. The video provider needs to start offering newer releases as streams on a pay-per-view basis -- just like Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) is already doing -- to get investors to stop seeing $7.99 a month as the most revenue that it can generate per streaming customer.
Netflix repeated during the call that it has no intention of backing off the $7.99 price point. It has previously argued that it's not interested in tiered pricing. However, we're getting to the point where Netflix may be maxing out its growth, at least as it pertains to stateside customers.
It's not just the report itself, which showed domestic streaming as the only Netflix segment to clock in at the far low end of its earlier guidance. Even Netflix admits that it's scraping the bottom of the barrel. It points out that involuntary churn -- typically the poor households that get booted when credit and debit card charges are rejected -- is on the rise. In other words, Netflix has exhausted early adopters and mainstream audiences. Now it's down to the lower-income families that have turned to Netflix because they can't pay their cable bills.
Come on, Netflix. It's time to milk more out of your wealthier customers that can pay more. Do it before Amazon wins them over.
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