Netflix subscriber growth beats estimates, shares surge

Entertainment

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc added about 7 million streaming customers in the latest quarter, 1.8 million more than Wall Street expected, as it debuted a record amount of original programming, including new seasons of popular shows “Orange is the New Black” and “BoJack Horseman.”

FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is pictured on a television in this illustration photograph taken in Encinitas, California, U.S., January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

The additions brought Netflix’s customer base to 137 million worldwide and shares of the video streaming pioneer jumped 14 percent to $394.25 in after-hours trading.

Netflix is investing billions of dollars in entertainment programming to hook new customers around the world. Investors have generally accepted the big spending as subscriber rolls swelled in recent years.

For the year to date, Netflix shares are up about 78 percent, compared with about 5 percent for the S&P 500 index.

Netflix’s results sent shares of Alphabet Inc, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc up about 1 percent higher in extended trade. The four make up the so-called FANG group of high-growth companies that in recent months has lost some of its momentum following market-leading gains in recent years.

Netflix said it signed up roughly 1.1 million subscribers in the United States during the latest quarter, above analysts’ estimate of 674,000, according to Refinitiv.

Netflix added nearly 5.9 million subscribers internationally, compared with the average analyst estimate of 4.5 million.

For the current quarter, Netflix forecast it will add 1.8 million customers in the United States and 7.6 million in international markets.

During the September quarter, Netflix added about 676 hours of original programming in the United States, a 135 percent increase from a year earlier, according to Cowen and Co analysts.

It also made a strong showing in September at the Emmy awards, the television industry’s highest honors. Netflix tied longtime Emmy favorite HBO in total wins.

But Netflix has been borrowing heavily to fund its TV shows and movies. It has issued a net $7.5 billion of bonds in less than three years.

Bearish bets against the company’s $8.4 billion of junk-rated bonds have more than tripled this year to an all-time high of $347 million, according to data from Samuel Pierson, analyst at IHS Markit..

It also faces competition from companies such as Hulu and Amazon. The battle is expected to intensify late next year with new streaming services from Walt Disney Co and AT&T Inc.

The company’s net income rose to $402.8 million, or 89 cents per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from $129.6 million, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose to $4 billion, in line with analysts’ expectations of $4 billion.

Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Bill Rigby

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