Netflix provides anemic growth forecast, shares fall


(Corrects subscriber additions forecast in paragraph 5 to 3.5 million customers, not 2.6 million)

(Reuters) -Netflix Inc provided a weak forecast for customer growth in the current quarter as the streaming video pioneer faces growing competition, the return of movie theaters and a lifting of pandemic restrictions that had kept people at home.

The company’s shares dropped 1.6% in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

Earnings per share for the quarter came in at $2.97, below the average forecast of $3.16, according to analysts surveyed by Refinitiv.

Netflix is weathering a sharp slowdown in new customers after a boom in 2020 fueled by stay-at-home orders to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company projected it would add 3.5 million customers from July through September. Wall Street had expected a forecast of 5.5 million.

For the just-ended quarter, Netflix added 1.54 million customers, reaching 209 million in total. Wall Street had expected 1.039 million new sign-ups.

A year ago, Netflix added 10.1 million subscribers in the second quarter.

This year, Netflix felt the impact of COVID-19 on TV production, which left the company with a small menu of new titles. At the same time, Walt Disney Co’s Disney+, AT&T Inc’s HBO Max and other services attracted customers, and summer blockbusters returned to movie theaters.

Netflix promises a heavier lineup in the second half of 2021, including new seasons of “You,” “Money Heist” and “The Witcher.”

The company also is expanding in other businesses. It has hired a new executive to run a video-game unit and launched a website to sell merchandise tied to “Lupin” and other hits.

“We view gaming as another new content category for us, similar to our expansion into original films, animation and unscripted TV,” the company said in a letter to shareholders. “Games will be included in members’ Netflix subscription at no additional cost similar to films and series. Initially, we’ll be primarily focused on games for mobile devices.”

(Reporting by Eva Mathews and Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Lisa Shumaker)


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