One of the first megacap stocks to help get the ball rolling every quarter for earnings season is Netflix (NFLX -0.38%). The company is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, Jan. 21 -- less than three weeks from now.
While there will be a number of key metrics for investors to look over when the streaming-TV company's latest results go live, investors should make sure to check on the company's reported paid members at the end of 2019. Despite Netflix's total subscriber base already surging past 139 million in 2018, the media giant has continued to add millions of subscribers every quarter in 2019.
But was Netflix able to keep up its strong momentum in subscriber growth throughout Q4 -- a quarter that saw intensified competition, as both Walt Disney and Apple launched new streaming services?
Look for 7.6 million member additions in Q4
During the first three quarters of 2019, Netflix added a total of 19.1 million new subscribers. After adding 9.6 million paying members in Q1, Netflix whiffed on its member growth in Q2 and missed its own guidance for the period: Net subscriber additions in Q2 were 2.7 million. But member growth picked back up again in Q3 as the company added 6.8 million new paid memberships.
Looking to Q4, Netflix management guided for 7.6 million new paid members during the period. While this implies meaningful growth, it's notably a slowdown from 8.8 million net paid member additions in the fourth quarter of 2018. The new services from Disney and Apple may be one reason for this expected slowdown, compared to growth seen in the fourth quarter of 2018. But management believes any negative impact from the launch of these new services is only temporary.
"The launch of these new services will be noisy. There may be some modest headwind to our near-term growth, and we have tried to factor that into our guidance," explained Netflix management during the company's third-quarter shareholder letter. "In the long-term, though, we expect we'll continue to grow nicely given the strength of our service and the large market opportunity."
Can Netflix deliver?
The company's shares have risen 22% in the three months leading up to the report, raising the stakes for the streaming-TV company to report good fourth-quarter numbers. Can Netflix live up to its guidance?
Investors should keep in mind that Netflix's approach with guidance is to aim for accuracy instead of lowballing its forecasts so that it can always hit them. This means that the streaming-TV company misses its own guidance from time to time.
If Netflix hits its fourth-quarter guidance for paid member additions, the company will have wrapped up 2019 with an impressive 166 million members -- up 19% from the members it ended with in 2018.