One analyst is particularly bullish on Netflix's (NASDAQ:NFLX) subscriber growth in the streaming-TV company's recently ended third quarter. Though the company hasn't reported subscriber additions for the period yet, management guided for 2.5 million subscriber net adds during the quarter. But JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth thinks this view significantly underestimates Netflix's growth during the period.
Could Netflix crush its subscriber growth guidance when it reports third-quarter results later this month?
5 million new subscribers
Data from app analytics company Apptopia suggests that Netflix added about 5.4 million subscribers during Q3, according to Anmuth. This has Anmuth more confident that Netflix's forecast was too conservative. Anmuth raised his outlook for third-quarter subscriber additions from 3.1 million to 5.1 million.
What's behind this potentially better-than-expected growth? A robust content slate and strong download trends in September, the analyst says.
Along with sharing his optimistic view for Netflix's third-quarter subscriber growth, Anmuth reiterated his overweight rating (similar to a buy rating) and his $625 12-month price target for the stock.
Subscribers have surged in 2020
When Netflix initially provided guidance for 2.5 million new subscribers in Q3, the market reacted by selling off shares of the growth stock. Investors apparently had higher hopes for Q3.
But some perspective is in order. A trend of consumers sheltering at home earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic led to enormous first-half growth. There were 26 million total new subscribers in Q1 and Q2 -- far more than the 12 million Netflix added during the first half of 2019. Management's third-quarter guidance, therefore, built in the possibility that there was significant pull-forward in demand in the first half of the year.
Even if Netflix only added 2.5 million new members in Q3, year-to-date subscriber additions would be 28.4 million. This compares to the 19.1 million new members Netflix added in the first three quarters of 2019.
So, whether Netflix achieves five million new paid subscriber additions or not in Q3, it would be tough to criticize the company's growth trajectory. For reference, five million member additions during Q3 would put Netflix's total paid members at about 198 million -- up 31% from the 152 million members Netflix had in the year-ago quarter.
Management said it expected revenue in Q3 to jump 21% year over year and earnings per share to soar from $1.47 in the third quarter of 2019 to $2.09.
Netflix is scheduled to report its third-quarter results after market close on Tuesday, Oct. 20.