Netflix (NFLX 0.57%) shareholders have had a good year so far. Six months into 2017, their stock has significantly outpaced the market despite an arguably lofty valuation.
There's no telling whether the second half of the year will be as bright for investors. But in any case, you can count on seeing plenty of volatility in this controversial stock, especially around its quarterly business update in July.
July 17: Earnings release
Second-quarter results are due out after the market closes on Monday, July 17. Three months ago, CEO Reed Hastings and his team predicted they'd add 3.2 million new members this quarter to mark a solid acceleration over the prior year's 1.7 million. Operating margin should plunge to 4.4% from 9.7% last quarter, though.
Investors shouldn't read too much into these quarterly swings since they can be heavily impacted by temporary factors. This year, for example, Netflix moved the season premiere of House of Cards into the second quarter from the first quarter. As a result, membership growth will be higher than usual, and spiking content expenses will depress profits, too.
Zoom out and the picture becomes less cloudy. Netflix will likely add 8.2 million new users over the first six months of 2017, for a slight slowdown from the 8.4 million it attracted in the year-ago period. The streaming giant also should achieve 7% operating margin for the full year to roughly double last year's result.
The company should pass an important milestone this quarter as it hits 100 million global users. The U.S. segment still makes up most of its business, but that's set to change soon given that international subscribers should come in at 50.5 million, compared to 51.5 million in its home market. The international division reached its first quarter of profitability last quarter and is predicted to slip back into a slight loss as Netflix invests in improving local content and boosting brand recognition.
July 14: Comedy content
Content is the main engine of growth for Netflix's business, and so the company has a busy month planned on that score. It will release seven exclusive shows and movies in July as part of a massive annual launch calendar that will see the streamer spend $6 billion to deliver 1,000 hours of original content. 2016's comparable numbers were $5 billion of content costs and 700 hours of new programming.
On the 14th, the company hopes to have a hit release for its brand-new property, Friends From College. The comedy series stars Fred Savage and is aimed at an adult audience. There are only eight episodes in the inaugural season, but Netflix is hoping to attract enough member engagement to warrant several additional seasons ahead, as it has with breakout hits like Orange is the New Black.
Also on the 14th, look for Netflix to bulk up its stand-up comedy portfolio with the global release of The Standups. This show is a collection of routines by different comedians and could be an efficient driver of viewing hours. After all, the company's recent Dave Chappelle: Collection 1 show was its most viewed stand-up special yet.
Just as its original scripted TV series have done over the past few years, exclusive content in the stand-up market niche has the potential to boost Netflix's brand and drive profitable global viewership. That's why it would be no surprise to see the company ramp up its offerings with bigger-budget acts over time.