The fast-growing streaming juggernaut called Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is scheduled to report first-quarter earnings on April 15. Since the company's last earnings call, Netflix has been as busy as ever, launching new Netflix Original series and seasons, wooing Time Warner's HBO into non-cable Internet streaming, and prepping its servers for Disney's first content made exclusively for Netlix -- Marvel's Daredevil series. You can bet analysts will be loaded with questions when the company transitions to the Q&A portion of its earnings call.
Here's an early look at analyst expectations for Netflix as well as a few important items to check on when the company releases its quarterly update.
For Q1, the consensus analyst estimate for Netflix' EPS and revenue are $0.69 and $1.57 billion, respectively.
Adjusting for a $0.63 per share benefit from a tax accrual release related to a resolution of a tax audit in Q4, first-quarter EPS of $0.69 would be down 4% sequentially and down 20% from the year-ago quarter. The decline in profits expected by analysts reflects Netflix's heavy spending on original content, which it typically pays for up front. Over the long haul, however, Netflix expects these investments in original content to pay off. Management says total cost for original content relative to viewing metrics it generates is less than what it spends to achieve comparative viewing metrics on content it licenses. Beyond high content costs, management said a year-on-year increase in upfront investments in global technology and general and administrative costs in support of international expansion would also negatively affect its first-quarter results.
The consensus estimate for $1.57 billion in revenue reflects continued optimism in the company's revenue growth -- the figure is up 5% sequentially and 24% from the year-ago quarter.
As of Q4, Netflix had 57.4 million members. The company added 4.33 million members in Q4 and 13 million during the entire year. By the end of Q1, Netflix said it expects to have 61.4 million members, up 4 million from the quarter before.
It will be particularly interesting to see Netflix's international streaming net member additions during Q1. The company's net increase of 2.43 million international members in Q4 was its largest increase in international members on record. Can Netflix keep up the momentum? While Netflix guided for net additions of 2.25 million in Q1, the company's predictions for international growth usually turn out to be conservative.
While Netflix's contribution margin for its international segment will likely continue to be negative throughout the next few years as the company spends heavily on expansion, Netflix is showing the strength of its business model in the U.S. recently by rapidly increasing its contribution margin for the segment. The company predicts its U.S. streaming segment will report a record-high contribution margin of 30.1% in Q1, up significantly from its 23.4% contribution margin in the year-ago quarter.
Netflix said in its fourth-quarter letter to shareholders that this trend will continue throughout the year and in the long-term.
We have built in flexibility to our business model in terms of how quickly we grow content and marketing spend, so we intend to keep US contribution margins growing even with lower membership growth. This year we plan to increase US contribution margins from 30% in Q1 to about 32% in Q1 2016 to about 34% in Q1 2017, etc. We'll reevaluate the margin progression model again in early 2020 when we hopefully achieve 40% contribution margins.
Overall, investors will be looking for signs that Netflix' member growth isn't stagnating and for evidence the company is still heading toward higher levels of profitability.
Netflix earnings release will go live shortly after market close on Wednesday, April 15. Stay tuned at The Motley Fool for more pre-Netflix earnings coverage as well as Foolish post-earnings analysis.