Tuning In to Netflix, Inc. Earnings: Here's What to Watch on Wednesday

How price increases affect margins, what original programming does to churn and cash flow, and more to watch for when Netflix reports earnings on Wednesday afternoon.

Tim Beyers
Tim Beyers
Oct 13, 2015 at 10:56AM
Consumer Goods

Marvel's Jessica Jones debuts next month, adding to Netflix's growing list of original series. Credit: MYLES ARONOWITZ/NETFLIX.

Shares of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) are up over 130% year to date. Will the rally continue, or are worse days ahead? A lot depends on how well the business performs. Here's a closer look at what analysts expect to see when the streaming sensation reports third-quarter 2015 earnings on Oct. 14:

Q3 Estimates
YOY Growth
YOY Growth

Low estimate

 $1,708.30 million  21.2%  $0.07  (50%)

High estimate

 $1,766.90 million  25.4%  $0.11  (21.4%)


 $1,750.52 million




Source: S&P Capital IQ

Most are expecting a beat, and for good reason. Netflix has topped estimates in each of the past four quarters leading up to this week's report:

Earnings History
FQ3 2014
FQ4 2014
FQ1 2015
FQ2 2015




  $0.09   $0.04


 $0.14    $0.10   $0.11   $0.06






Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Looking at the overall business, I'm watching for momentum in each of these four areas:

1. Return on investment in international territories. Netflix has made no secret about its global ambitions. Today, the service is available throughout North and South America, Australia, the U.K., Scandanavia and other parts of Western Europe, and Japan. Plenty of opportunities for growth remain. Less clear is the timeline for squeezing meaningful contribution profit from overseas territories. (In Q2, Netflix forecast a $77 million operating loss on $524 million in international streaming revenue.)

2.The connection between licensing and customer churn. While Netflix doesn't typically report churn -- a measure of turnover in the installed base -- there's a lot we can tell by how fast (or slow) Netflix's total customer count grows. Accelerating growth is what we're after, obviously. Less clear are the conditions that lead to slow or negative growth. Getting a better handle on this would help investors to better judge whether it matters when a big licensing deal, like the one with EPIX, expires. (The stock briefly turned lower after Hulu announced it was taking over EPIX content.)

3. Original programming, production costs, and the relative value of licensing owned programming. We've known for months that Netflix plans to produce originals as HBO and AMC Network do, and then take a cut of the licensing fees when distributing elsewhere. The effort means paying more for content. How much upside is Netflix looking for in exchange? At AMC, "distribution" revenue from affiliate fees and licensing programming such as The Walking Dead accounts for well over half the revenue produced by its National Networks group -- $303 million of $489 million in divisional revenue for Q2, for example.

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4. Guidance on how to think about the recent price increase. Netflix raised prices last year without much trouble. The streaming service did it again just days ago, hiking the cost of its most popular streaming plan by $1 to $9.99 monthly. How should investors think about the impact of the boost? Margin guidance may be the area to watch. Contribution margin on U.S. streaming has risen steadily since Netflix's last price increase in the second quarter of 2014. Cash flow from operations has mostly declined over the same period because of large and growing investments in original content.

Netflix reports Q3 results on Oct. 14 after the market closes.