Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Netflix Posts an In-Line Quarter, but Investors Balk (Updated)

Reed Hastings had a good Q1, and says the rest of the year will be good, too. Wall Street doesn’t believe him, and is hammering the stock. His conference call, which starts at 6 pm ET, should be interesting.

First look at Netflix numbers: A loss of $0.08 a share on revenue of $870 million. Wall Street was expecting revenues of $855 million and a loss of $0.27 a share. The crucial number: 23.41 million domestic streaming subscribers. Netflix had told investors to expect 22.8 million to 23.6 million.

Netflix had previously said it might lose money throughout 2012, but now says things could get better sooner, and predicts that it may turn a profit in Q2. “The improvement in the outlook is a result of continued member growth (both domestically and internationally), as well as increased efficiency of our content and marketing spending,” CEO Reed Hastings writes in his shareholder letter.

But the market isn’t happy with something — shares are down 16 percent — so we’ll try to figure out why. Perhaps this: “Q2 net adds will be below those of 2010, despite Q2 gross adds following the traditional seasonal pattern, and despite us expecting to match 2010 in annual net additions,” Hastings writes. He adds: “We see nothing new or particularly concerning this quarter to date in our member viewing, acquisition and retention. All are healthy.”

Someone disagrees.

(Update: OK, here’s Citi’s Mark Mahaney’s take on the market’s reaction. As I suspected, it is about the paragraph above — Hastings is saying subscriber growth will slow next quarter, but net out just fine for the year, and Wall Street doesn’t believe him.

“We believe this is due to concerns over the company’s Domestic Streaming Net Adds outlook — 500K Net Adds in Q2 vs. the Street at 1.2MM. NFLX is, however, laying out an outlook for 7MM Domestic Streaming Adds in 2011. This is higher than our 5MM estimate, and we believe is in-line with or higher than most Street estimates. The issue is market skepticism that NFLX can reach this level given the June Quarter guide.”)

Per usual, Hastings notes competition from Amazon and Hulu, and now Comcast’s Streampix offering. Also per usual, he says he can’t see any near-term effect from those services on his business, but promises to “watch them carefully.” And again, he argues that his long-term competition comes from the cable guys, and the promise of their “TV Everywhere” strategy.

Hastings also said the company’s expansion into U.K. and Ireland is promising. But he acknowledges what many Wall Street analysts have already concluded: Latin America will be a challenge. “The odds of us building a large, profitable business in Latin America are very good, but it will take longer than we initially thought.”

Again, here’s the “cheat sheet” from Citi’s Mark Mahaney so you can try to interpret the numbers yourself.

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”