Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) will start reporting its revenue and membership by region starting with its fourth-quarter report (out next month). To give investors some context, the streaming media company released an update detailing its regional metrics dating back to the first quarter of 2017.
There aren't a lot of surprises in the investor update, which breaks out Netflix's subscribers into four regions: Asia-Pacific (APAC); Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); Latin America (LATAM); and the U.S. and Canada (UCAN). Growth is slower in North America, and fastest in Asia-Pacific.
But the new regional reporting style gives investors a couple of numbers they need to pay attention to going forward.
Better detail on average revenue per user
It was always possible to get a pretty good estimate of Netflix's average revenue per user (ARPU) with the metrics it reported previously, but the company is now explicitly providing the number for each of its regions. Breaking out ARPU by region also gives investors a better look at how its strategies in various regions are performing.
In the United States and Canada, for example, the market is much more saturated. The company's added fewer than 500,000 new subscribers over the last six months. But ARPU increased from $11.45 in the first quarter to $13.08 in the third quarter. Those numbers reflect a price increase Netflix made in the United States in the first quarter.
Netflix also raised prices in some Latin American markets earlier this year, including Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil. The impact was seen in slower second-quarter paid subscriber additions, but a higher ARPU.
The Europe, Middle East, and Africa region has seen the most net subscriber additions this year, as pricing has remained relatively stable. The region represents Netflix's second-largest market, and it's also the company's most economically diverse. That makes it hard to judge Netflix's strategy in the region because the reporting will be still too broad to provide an accurate assessment.
Netflix's progress in Asia-Pacific is gaining momentum, but perhaps more slowly than investors would like to see. It has added 3.9 million subscribers through the first nine months of 2019, up from about 3 million in the same period last year. Netflix is more of a premium service in some Asian countries, and it's actively looking to attract a broader audience.
Watch for the success of the mobile-only plan
In order to combat the high price sensitivity in some Asia-Pacific markets, Netflix started offering a mobile-only plan to consumers in India and Malaysia. The plan costs just 199 rupees ($2.80) per month in India and 17 ringgit ($4.10) per month in Malaysia. That's well below the $9.29 per month average revenue per subscriber Netflix generated in Asia-Pacific last quarter.
Netflix's price is arguably too high in some markets, but it's challenged by the global nature of its product. For reference, $9.29 per month is more than the average U.S. subscriber was paying in the second quarter of 2016.
If Netflix's revenue per user falls in APAC with a commensurate rise in total subscribers, it's an excellent indication that Netflix's strategy is working. Total subscriber growth in the region is more important at this point than revenue per subscriber. The company is investing over $400 million in Indian content over the next couple of years, and it needs a broad audience for its investment to pay off.
The best way to see if the competition is impacting Netflix
Watching average revenue per subscriber and net subscriber additions in each region are the best ways for investors to judge whether the competition in streaming is impacting Netflix. If subscriber additions slow meaningfully without a related increase in ARPU, it's a sign Netflix is facing some competitive pressure negatively impacting subscriber churn or gross additions.
With Netflix breaking out the numbers explicitly by region, investors will be able to see how regional competitors and Netflix's own strategies in certain areas like Asia-Pacific are impacting the numbers. Netflix management will have more to share in its fourth-quarter earnings release on Jan. 21.