Netflix shares tumble as it misses global subscriber forecasts

(Reuters) - Netflix Inc <NFLX.O> added fewer quarterly subscribers than Wall Street expected and its U.S. customer base shrank as its programming failed to draw new viewers, jarring investors ahead of looming competition.

Netflix shares tumbled 13% in after-hours trading on Wednesday after the company posted quarterly results and said it lost 130,000 U.S. customers.

The world's dominant subscription video service said it hooked 2.83 million new paid streaming subscribers outside the United States, below analyst expectations of 4.8 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Analysts had forecast a gain of 352,000 in the United States.

"Our missed forecast was across all regions, but slightly more so in regions with price increases," the company said a letter to shareholders.

"We think Q2's content slate drove less growth in paid adds than we anticipated," it said.

Netflix has staked its future on global expansion and creating original TV shows, movies and documentaries to attract new customers and keep the existing ones paying monthly subscription fees.

"Even though we expected slowing user growth in the U.S., a negative paid net additions number is shocking," said Clement Thibault, analyst at financial markets platform Investing.com.

"The problem is that with intensifying competition, there is no guarantee Netflix has the pricing power needed to raise prices without massively bleeding users."

Netflix raised prices in Britain, Switzerland, Greece and Western Europe during the second quarter.

Looking ahead, Netflix projected it will grow by 7 million paid streaming customers in the third quarter with help from a new season of supernatural thriller "Stranger Things," released on July 4. That is more bullish than the 6.6 million forecast from analysts polled by Refinitiv.

But looming in November is the launch of Disney+, seen as a formidable entrant into the streaming market, and original programming from Apple Inc <AAPL.O>. AT&T Inc <T.N> and Comcast Corp <CMCSA.O> have said they plan their own offerings next year.

Netflix also is on the verge of losing its two most-streamed shows. "The Office" will come off Netflix in January 2021 and head to Comcast's streaming platform, while "Friends" will end its run on Netflix at the beginning of 2020. It will move exclusively to the upcoming AT&T service HBO Max.

The company spent $7.5 billion on content for 2018 and executives have said that amount will grow in 2019, leading to a surge in its debt, which has tripled from $3.36 billion in 2016 to $10.36 billion in 2018.

Net income fell to $270.7 million, or 60 cents per share, in the second quarter ended June 30 from $384.3 million, or 85cents per share, a year earlier.

Total revenue rose to $4.92 billion from $3.91 billion.Analysts on average had expected revenue of $4.93 billion.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Matthew Lewis)

07/17/2019 21:03

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