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Netflix Stock Could Move Big After Earnings This Week

By Daniel Sparks - Updated Apr 20, 2020 at 10:20AM

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Here's what investors should know before the streaming-TV specialist reports its latest quarterly results.

Netflix (NFLX -1.37%) earnings are right around the corner. The streaming-TV company is set to report its first-quarter results on Tuesday. Following a surge in the company's stock price (shares are up about 40% since mid-March), investor expectations are high. This elevated view for the company, of course, is due to more people who are sheltering at home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Research firm OnePoll, on behalf of streaming-TV service Tubi, estimated that average daily streaming per person in the U.S. has doubled recently. High investor expectations, combined with an overall volatile market in recent months, sets the stage for a likely big move for the stock price (up or down) following the company's upcoming earnings report.

Of course, whether shares of the growth stock jump higher or fall sharply after the latest numbers are released will likely depend on whether or not Netflix's business momentum meets or exceeds the heightened expectations investors have for the company. Two metrics in particular, including revenue growth and management's outlook for second-quarter subscriber additions, will likely play a key role in determining how investors respond to the timely update.

Here's a look at what to expect from both of these metrics.

A group of young people watching TV together

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Revenue growth

Netflix's fourth-quarter revenue jumped 30.6% year over year, helped both by a 12% year-over-year increase in average revenue per user (ARPU) and a 20% jump in paid subscribers over the same timeframe.

In Q1, the streaming-TV company's revenue growth rate is expected to decelerate as both ARPU and subscriber growth rates moderate. The main factor weighing on ARPU will likely be a tougher year-over-year comparison, as Netflix increased its prices in the U.S in the first quarter of 2019. Of course, since these price increases weren't fully implemented until Q2, Netflix still has a price-increase tailwind in its year-over-year comparison for its first-quarter 2020 results; but the tailwind isn't as significant as it was in prior quarters.

Management guided for first-quarter revenue to increase 26.8% year over year to $5.73 billion. But investors are likely expecting a trend of more consumers staying at home in the last few weeks of the quarter to help the company beat this guidance.

2. Q2 subscriber outlook

One area investors will likely watch closest when Netflix reports earnings is management's guidance for Q2 subscriber growth. The period is likely to benefit from more weeks of consumers sheltering at home than Q1 benefited from.

For context, Netflix added a whopping 9.6 million new members in the first quarter of 2019. But that figure was abnormally high and easily beat analysts' estimates at the time. Despite a trend of more people streaming television recently, investors shouldn't expect Netflix to guide for a figure quite this high. Though given the increased demand for streaming TV as consumers stay at home to help curb COVID-10, investors should at least look for management to guide for seven to eight million paid subscriber additions -- or even more -- during the period.

One wildcard that could hold this figure back is if management opts to be conservative with its forecast simply because these are unprecedented times with many moving parts and unpredictable macroeconomic factors that are evolving rapidly. But its management's practice to provide its own internal forecast (which aims for accuracy and not conservatism) as its public guidance for investors, so this is unlikely.

Investors can tune into Netflix's first-quarter update on the company's' investor relations website, after market close on Tuesday, April 21. 

Daniel Sparks has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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