Netflix is scheduled to release its next earnings report tonight after closing bell, and consensus suggests the company will report a 25% year over year increase in revenue, which would bring it to $1.97 billion against the year-ago quarter’s $1.57 billion. However, some analysts warn that a 25% increase may not be feasible this time around because that’s about the same percentage increase Netflix saw in last year’s first quarter, and management warned a year ago that they’re reaching a high saturation rate in their domestic market.
Netflix’s subscriber numbers in focus
Consensus has Netflix’s earnings pegged at 3 cents per share for the first quarter, compared to 5 cents per share in the year-ago quarter, although EPS might not be the main focus tonight. Subscriber numbers are at least as important, if not more so. A post on Yahoo Finance notes that in the fourth quarter, the video streaming giant added 1.56 million net subscribers, compared to 1.9 million the year before. For the first quarter, management guided for 1.75 million new U.S. subscribers and 6.1 million net new subscribers total.
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Another subscriber-related number investors and analysts will be looking at is the churn rate. Netflix raised the monthly subscription rate from $8 to $10 per month, although previous subscribers were granted a two-year reprieve from that price increase. This means that those who subscribed before May 2014 will start seeing the price increase next month.
Although the first quarter’s churn rate probably won’t see much impact from this price increase, we could start seeing it in the second quarter. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said recently that subscriber churn could reach 10 million and that the number of subscribers that are impacted by the price hike two years ago could be as high as 30 million.
Netflix is pushing ahead in international markets, so its international subscriber numbers are becoming more and more important. In fact, analysts who are especially bullish on the company frequently mentioning the many opportunities that are available in international markets.
Netflix’s content costs also important
Another area of focus will likely be content costs, an issue bears frequently raise because Netflix has been riding high on its original series like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Exclusive content is also a big draw for subscribers, but getting the exclusive streaming rights for content usually comes with a high price tag.
Also the company has pledged to produce 600 hours of original programming this year, which is a significant increase from last year’s 450 hours, notes USA Today. This means that just on original content alone, Netflix will likely spend $6 billion on content this year. The company was negative on free cash flow in the fourth quarter as content costs weighed on its cash, and analysts warn that we could see this again in the first quarter results.