Netflix users watched 12 billion hours of programming in the fourth-quarter, CEO Reed Hastings said at the CES, and this is a really huge number. However, there is one research firm that thinks this huge number can possibly have a dark lining.Netflix, Inc. Growth Numbers May Not Be Revealing Full Truth

Fourth-quarter projections “at risk”

At the CES last week, Hastings made an announcement that the streaming video provider is now available in 160 countries more, and soon more will be added. Also, the average monthly Netflix viewing of 4 billion hours keeps it ahead of all the competing major TV networks with CBS being an exception, probably, says a report from Fortune. This is a really massive growth, and its impact was seen on company’s stock price which went up by more than 139% last year.

However, Barclays Research, in a note on Tuesday, said the figures suggests a slower growth in the subscriber base than what investors had been expecting, and the fourth-quarter projections could be “at risk.” The research firm did some reverse engineering for arriving at this conclusion.

Barclays stated that Netflix is often heard talking about its growth, but it has happened only for the third time in the company’s history that Hastings has mentioned total hours viewed in his speech. Therefore, Barclays calculated the average number of hours a subscriber watch by making a comparison between the figure given by Hastings and the total number of subscribers Netflix has.

Netflix guidance not in-line with viewing hours

Barclays says the average Netflix subscriber spent 161 hours watching programs in the first-quarter of last year. Now, if this number is held constant for the fourth-quarter, then the streaming firm would have around 74.7 million subscribers. It must be noted that Barclays expect the streaming firm to have 74.3 million subscribers, and the company has also been guiding the analysts to expect the same.

But, keeping in mind the growth Netflix has made in its programming over the past years, arguably an increase should have been seen in the number of hours viewed per subscriber and not held steady, said Barclays. In case, it did increase, then it could mean that subscriber growth rate at Netflix has been lower than what the company has led the analysts to believe.

And, if the company meets estimates, “the kind of investor who pays the type of multiple Netflix is trading at typically likes to see a company beat estimates handily, not barely manage to meet them,” the report says.