Netflix (NFLX -1.60%) announced its loss of 970,000 subscribers in the second quarter of 2022 after projecting a loss of 2 million. The company's hit content was a leading factor in the improvement, but its third quarter might not be so lucky -- here's why.

A lack of hit content

On July 19, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings discussed the company's positive second-quarter results in an earnings call, attributing much of its improved subscriber losses to its content -- thanking one show in particular. The executive said, "If there was a single thing, we might say Stranger Things." Part 1 of the show's fourth season was released May 27, generating 1.3 billion viewing hours in the first four weeks -- becoming Netflix's biggest season for an English series ever. 

In addition to the juggernaut Stranger Things, Q2 2022 also saw the finale of the Netflix hit Ozark on April 29, with the release of part 2 of the show's final season. The last seven episodes racked up 78.4 million viewing hours in its first three days, making it the company's most-watched English-language TV series before Stranger Things Season 4 was released a month later. 

The third quarter had a good start with the release of Stranger Things Season 4 Part 2 on July 1, but there are not many reasons for subscribers to stay beyond that. The next big releases during the month have been the game-adapted series Resident Evil on July 14 and the Ryan Gosling-led film The Gray Man on July 22. Resident Evil has since become one of Netflix's worst-rated shows in history, and while The Gray Man could encourage views, popular shows are what pull in subscribers. Releases such as Uncharted in August and the Marylin Monroe biopic Blonde in September are great additions to Netflix's film library but aren't going to encourage subscriber retention. 

The best-performing series adding a new season in Q3 2022 is high school comedy-drama Never Have I Ever, with its third season launching on August 12. The show's second season landed in the top 10 of more than 70 countries in July 2021, garnering 132 million viewing hours from July 11 to August 1, 2021. While the show's stats are impressive, the second season garnered just 13.5% of Stranger Things Season 4 Part 1's viewership in the same length of time . Even with Stranger Things, Netflix lost almost a million subscribers in Q2 2022; improvements aren't likely in Q3. 

Waiting for ads

While Netflix waits for subsequent seasons of its hard-hitting series to boost memberships, the next likely push for subscriber growth will be the introduction of its ad-supported tier. The company announced its venture into ads in early 2022, partnering with Microsoft to get the job done. As ad-supported streaming options have grown in popularity, the move is positive for the company and potentially opens up a market of people who previously saw the platform as too expensive. However, the ad initiative will not come into effect until at least early 2023 -- leaving less to boost Q3 2022. 

Additionally, a recent study from Civic Science has shown that ad-supported options are more likely to attract existing Netflix subscribers than new ones. A survey in mid-July showed that 32% of current Netflix members would likely make the switch to a lower-priced ad-supported tier. However, 26% of non-Netflix members said they'd probably subscribe to the ad-supported option. So, while Netflix is hopeful that an ad-supported service will boost subscriber growth, it looks more likely to retain current members. The data suggests that even if the ad-supported tier launched in Q3, it might not garner the subscriber growth investors are hoping for.

Can things turn around in Q4?

In terms of content, the fourth quarter of 2022 will bring some major releases to Netflix members, including the highly anticipated fifth season of The Crown in November, and subsequent seasons of Emily in Paris, Big Mouth, and You will likely launch before the year's out. Of course, not every quarter can have a Stranger Things, but Q4 is more likely to draw in big viewing numbers than Q3.

The future of Netflix will be a waiting game for streaming service stock investors. Third quarter earnings may be disappointing, but that's not to say Netflix won't have a successful 2023 with the launch of its ad-supported tier, password-sharing crackdowns, and even an expansion of Netflix Games. So there is still hope for the streaming giant, but it will require patience.