Netflix (NFLX 1.37%) investors are about to get a big update on the streaming video giant's growth prospects. The company announces fiscal first-quarter results in mid-April in a report that very well could show a clear path toward accelerating sales growth despite the weak global economy.

That economic pressure will be at the top of shareholders' minds while they evaluate Netflix's Q1 performance and management's updated short-term outlook. Let's look at how these factors might drive stock returns over the next year.

Positive momentum

The big question Netflix has to answer on April 18 is whether its positive Q4 momentum carried through into the start of the new year. "2022 was a tough year, with a bumpy start but a brighter finish," executives said in a shareholder letter. That bright finish included surprisingly strong subscriber gains for a second consecutive quarter after Netflix lost members in each of the previous two quarters.

Investors will want to see another relatively strong outing for Q1, with expectations calling for overall revenue growth to accelerate to 4% from 2% in the prior quarter. If Netflix lands a modest increase in streaming subscribers, along with rising average spending, then it will be on track toward faster overall sales gains this year.

Financial wins

The financial picture is not so cloudy. Netflix is projecting higher profit margins this year as its operating margin lands close to 20%, or roughly on par with the blowout performance in 2021. Management's goal is to keep that metric at between 19% and 20%, and Netflix is remarkably consistent on this score. Operating margin (after adjusting for currency swings) was 20% in 2022, 22% in 2021, and 20% last year.

NFLX Operating Margin (TTM) Chart

NFLX Operating Margin (TTM) data by YCharts

Subscriber growth will be a key pillar of achieving another 20% performance in 2023. But Netflix is increasingly getting contributions from other areas. Rising monthly fees and advertising revenue will help this year, for example. Most Wall Street pros are looking for sales to rise about 9% in 2023, up to $35.5 billion.

Cash flow and valuation

The streaming video giant had been growing at more than twice that rate previously, though, and that slowdown is a key reason the stock price has declined so much since late 2021. But what about 2023 and beyond?

On the bright side, Netflix is on pace to double free cash flow to over $3 billion this year, implying much more financial strength ahead. Shareholders can feel reasonably confident that earnings will be solid, too, given Netflix's proven ability to keep operating margin near 20% of sales. Elite peers such as Disney have struggled here and are currently slashing costs to make their streaming service models more financially sustainable.

Going forward, the main question is whether Netflix can reaccelerate its sales trends to build on the company's strong end in its fiscal 2022 year. Investors will get more clarity on that potential in Netflix's upcoming earnings report. But the current growth outlook is bright for the business, and the stock, over the next year given Netflix's impressive sales, cash flow, and profit trends.