Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Will Netflix Announce 100 Million Subscribers?

By Frank DiPietro - Apr 12, 2017 at 10:06AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Netflix reports earnings April 17. Here's why it may have crossed the 100 million-subscriber mark by then.

On April 17, Netflix, Inc. (NFLX 3.55%) will report its Q1 earnings. Last quarter, the company predicted that it would add 5.2 million more users of its streaming service in Q1. If the company meets that target, it will have ended the quarter with 99 million streaming subscribers worldwide. The table below shows how Netflix has done over the past several quarters in adding streaming subscribers.

SubscriberQ1 2016Q2 2016Q3 2016Q4 2016Q1 2017 Forecast
Adds 6.74 million 1.68 million 3.57 million 7.05 million 5.2 million
Total 81.50 million 83.18 million 86.74 million 93.80 million 99.00 million

Data source: Netflix. Chart by author.

The first quarter of 2016 benefited from Netflix's expansion to 130 new countries. The second quarter's weakness can partly be explained by price increases, and that is now firmly in the past. Combine that with Netflix's history of beating its own subscriber estimates and the fact that it will have 16 days of the second quarter under its belt when it reports, and I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Netflix will announce 100 million total streaming subscribers when it reports. 

A subscriber's Netflix screen shot.

Image source: Netflix.

The price increase is in the rearview mirror

Netflix should no longer be seeing a drag on membership from price increases that went into effect last year. Initially announced in 2015, the most popular plan for U.S. subscribers increased from $7.99/month to $9.99/month. All new subscribers paid the higher price upon joining the service beginning in 2015. Though existing subscribers were notified of the price increase in 2015, the actual increase took place on a rolling basis throughout 2016. 

The U.S. price increase hurt Netflix's U.S. subscriber growth throughout 2016. For the second quarter, management reported that "churn ticked up slightly and unexpectedly" as more people than expected turned off their account and the company missed its guidance of adding 2.5 million subscribers in the quarter. The stock price dropped 13% the next day.

Netflix should not see a repeat performance this year and as a result I feel fairly confident the company will guide to at least a 2.5 million-subscriber increase for Q2 of this year at a minimum.

A track record of overdelivering

Looking back over the past two years, Netflix management has beaten its own guidance seven out of the past eight quarters. Below is a chart showing the guidance for each quarter, the actual results, and the difference between the two.

QuarterGuidanceActual ResultsDifference Between
Guidance and Actual
% Difference
From Guidance
Q1 2017 99.00 million  due April 17  N/A  N/A
Q4 2016 91.94 million 93.80 million 1.86 million 2.02%
Q3 2016 85.48 million 86.74 million 1.26 million 1.47%
Q2 2016 84.00 million 83.18 million 0.82 million* 0.98%*
Q1 2016 80.86 million 81.50 million 0.64 million 0.79%
Q4 2015 74.32 million 74.76 million 0.44 million  0.59%
Q3 2015 69.10 million 69.17 million 0.07 million  0.10%
Q2 2015 64.77 million 65.55 million 0.78 million 1.20%
Q1 2015 61.44 million 62.27 million 0.83 million  1.35%

*The only quarter in which the actual number was lower than the company's guidance. Percentages are rounded. Data source: Netflix. Chart by author.

Over the past eight quarters, Netflix has exceeded guidance by 0.82% on average. If the company exceeds its 99 million-subscriber guidance this quarter by 0.82%, it will record an additional 812,000 subscribers, for a total of 99.8 million subscribers by March 31, the last day of the quarter. Close to 100 million but not quite there.

The next quarter is already underway

Netflix's second quarter began on April 1 and consists of 91 days. Sixteen days of Q2 will have passed before Netflix reports results; that is 18% of the quarter. Although the second quarter is typically slow for Netflix new subscription ads, it would be quite a disappointment if the company forecast fewer than 1.68 million new subscribers for Q2, which would equal the weak showing of last year's Q2. With the price increase out of the way I would expect to see the company guide for at least 2.5 million new subscribers for this Q2, which is the guidance management gave last year.

If subscriptions come in smoothly over the quarter, one could expect that 18% of the Q2 additions would occur prior to April 17. If we take 18% of the 1.68 million new-subscriber number from last year's Q2, that would work out to 300,000 new Q2 subscribers by the time Netflix reports. If we add that to the 99.8 million guidance-beating estimate for Q1 in my last section, that would give the company more than 100 million subscribers.

If Netflix does not make a big subscriber announcement along with its earnings report, I would expect it to happen very soon thereafter.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Netflix, Inc. Stock Quote
Netflix, Inc.
NFLX
$183.48 (3.55%) $6.29

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning service.

Stock Advisor Returns
327%
 
S&P 500 Returns
116%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 05/19/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.