Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Netflix Says Its “House of Cards” Strategy Worked, and Wall Street Agrees

reed hastings netflixNetflix’s numbers are up, and they’re what Wall Street wanted (for now!): Shares are up 19 percent.

Revenue came in at the billion-dollar mark that analysts were looking for, and the company’s U.S. streaming subscriber total hit 29.2 million — also around consensus. The big win was a net income number (after adjusting for one-time hits) of 31 cents per share, well above the 18 cents or 19 cents per share the Street expected.

What about everything else? As usual, Reed Hastings’s shareholder letter is filled with interesting nuggets. Here are some of them:

  • As predicted, Hastings doesn’t offer any real numbers for “House of Cards,” the company’s much-hyped foray into original productions. But he does take credit for building big buzz with “House of Cards” via its decision to release all 13 episodes at once. If Netflix had followed a standard release schedule, you’d be watching the last episode of the series this week, and presumably more people you know would be talking about the show right now. But Hastings says the big bang worked just fine: It ended up “reinforcing our brand attribute of giving consumers complete control over how and when they enjoy their entertainment.”
  • Hastings also says that almost no one signed up — for free, for a month-long trial — to watch the show and then left Netflix afterward. “There was very little free-trial gaming — less than 8,000 people did this, out of millions of free trials in the quarter.”
  • Those less-than-stellar reviews for “Hemlock Grove,” the new horror show Netflix put out this month? No biggie: “Hemlock Grove” was viewed by more members globally in its first weekend than was “House of Cards” and has been a particular hit among young adults.
  • Though Netflix is paying up for originals and certain stuff it values a lot, like its recent Disney deal, it is going to stop buying other stuff from the networks, especially when other people can get the same stuff. For instance: Hastings says the company will let a “broad” deal for Viacom content lapse in May, but that the two companies may negotiate licenses for specific shows. (Translation to parents: May want to have your kids binge on Dora and Diego right now).
  • Here’s what Viacom has to say about that, by the way: “We continue to be in discussion with several parties, including Netflix, on distribution of our content.”
  • Speaking of kids: You may at long last stop seeing Dora show up next to Kevin Spacey in your Netflix history: The company says it will finally start rolling out a “profiles” feature “in the coming months” that will let different family members track their own viewing habits and make specific recommendations.
  • And along those lines, Netflix will offer a family pricing plan for people who want to run multiple Netflix streams at the same time: “A few members with large families run into our 2-simultaneous-stream limit. To best serve these members, we’re shortly adding a 4-stream plan, at $11.99 in the U.S., and we expect fewer than 1% of members to take it.” (Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Netflix wasn’t offering this plan.)

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google