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Netflix Isn't Worried About Intensifying Competition

By Daniel Sparks - Updated Oct 18, 2019 at 6:40PM

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Management has been preparing for "streaming wars" since 2012.

Leading up to Netflix's (NFLX 1.98%) earnings report this week, concerns about an intensifying competitive landscape's impact on the streaming-TV giant were mounting. Apple (AAPL 4.08%) and Walt Disney (DIS 3.51%) are both readying their streaming services for launches in November at aggressive prices that undercut Netflix. Even Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a recent interview with Vanity Fair that "it's a whole new world starting in November."

But Netflix's third-quarter update shows a management team exuding confidence in the face of rising competition. Here's why Netflix isn't flinching.

A couple sitting on the couch and eating popcorn and watching TV together at home.

Image source: Getty Images.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Acknowledging the upcoming arrival of a handful of new streaming services, Netflix cited the company's large market opportunity as one of the main reasons its long-term outlook for its business is unchanged.

"We compete broadly for entertainment time. This means there are many competitive activities to Netflix (from watching linear TV to playing video games, for example)," management noted in its third-quarter shareholder letter. They also said: "But there is also a very large market opportunity; today we believe we're less than 10% of TV screen time in the U.S. (our most mature market) and much less than that in mobile screen time."

Illustrating how tough competition hasn't negatively impacted Netflix thus far, the company noted that its subscriber growth rate in the U.S. since 2013 has been almost identical to its growth rate in Canada, despite the fact that Walt Disney's Hulu, with its 30 million paid memberships, is a chief competitor in the U.S. but doesn't even exist in Canada.

The large market opportunity, Netflix believes, means that there's plenty of room for more robust competition before consumers start canceling services in order to choose something new. Streaming isn't a zero-sum game yet, management contends.

Netflix is prepared

Further, management is confident in its value proposition as competition increases.

"While the new competitors have some great titles (especially catalog titles), none have the variety, diversity and quality of new original programming that we are producing around the world," the company said. Indeed, management said it's been preparing for competition since 2012, when the company started investing heavily in original programming. "[W]e're ready to compete to earn consumers' attention and viewing."

Expect a modest impact

Of course, this doesn't mean Netflix won't see at least some negative impact from rising competition. Indeed, the company is no longer aiming to add more subscribers this year than it did last year -- and this is likely partly due to increased competition. With Apple TV+ and Disney+ slated to launch in November, Netflix is planning for a possible small headwind in near-term subscriber growth. Management guided for 7.6 million net paid member additions in Q4 -- lower than the 8.8 million it added in the fourth quarter of 2018.

But management isn't worried about the long term, saying it expects to "continue to grow nicely given the strength of our service and the large market opportunity."

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