Netflix (NFLX -1.03%) has been one of the undisputed beneficiaries of the widespread stay-at-home orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Forced into government-imposed lockdowns, consumers caught up on their favorite shows, causing Netflix subscriptions to spike. While some investors worry that the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions could cause increased viewer defections, one analyst thinks there's more gains to come.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Nat Schindler reiterated his buy rating on the streaming leader with a price target of $525 -- more than 23% higher than Monday's closing price. With sporting events, movie premiers, concerts, and other big events largely in limbo, Schindler argues that Netflix's subscriber growth will remain strong in the coming months.
Netflix churn edged higher last month, with an estimated 2.7% of subscribers canceling in May, up from 2.4% in April, but this is a modest increase in churn that Schindler chalks up to seasonality, and "not indicating a cancellation wave from ending lockdowns or recession." Indeed, the churn rate clocked in at 2.9% in 2019 and 2.6% in 2018, giving credence to the assertion.
During the first quarter, Netflix added a record 15.8 million subscribers, up 23% year over year. Domestic growth, which had stagnated in recent years, also increased 23%, while growing more than four-fold quarter over quarter.
Even after such significant subscriber gains, internet search data reveals that viewers aren't researching for a way to cancel their Netflix subscriptions, which suggests that users are planning to stick with the streaming technology leader, even as pandemic-related lock-downs are being lifted.