Streaming video giant Netflix said it’s US subscriber growth was slower than expected in the last three months of 2019 as rival services like Disney+ and Apple TV+ competed for eyeballs.
The Los Gatos, Calif., company — known for hits like “The Irishman,” “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” — added a net 420,000 streaming customers in the US and Canada in the fourth quarter, well below analysts’ estimates for growth of 659,600 subscribers.
The slowdown occurred in November, as Walt Disney grabbed 10 million new subscribers on the first day it launched Disney+ for just $6.99 a month. Apple followed up with a new streaming service for just $4.99 a month — also undercutting Netflix’s standard rate of $12.99 a month.
Netflix boss Reed Hastings addressed the competition directly by remarking on how his rivals still have nothing on Netflix, which remains the biggest streaming service by far, with 161.7 million subscribers globally.
“Despite the big debut of Disney+ and the launch of Apple TV+, our viewing per membership grew both globally and in the US on a year-over-year basis,” Hastings said.
Overseas, Netflix added 8.3 million subscribers — beating its own forecast for closer to 7.6 million new subscribers abroad. It expects to add another 7 million customers globally in the first quarter, it said.
Netflix also said it plans to continue to spend big on original content after investing $19 billion last year in news shows, including non-English-language shows — sending the stock up 2.5 percent after hours, to $346.7 a share.
Net income in the fourth quarter rose to $587 million, or $1.30 a share, versus $134 million, or 30 cents. Revenue rose 30.6 percent, to $5.47 billion. Analysts had expected the company to earn 53 cents a share on revenue of $5.45 billion.
Although Netflix doesn’t break out viewership numbers, it claims “The Witcher,” a “Game of Thrones”-like series, is on track to be its biggest first-season original TV show.
The firm said it was watched by 76 million customer households the first month of its release on Dec. 20, although that number includes people who tuned in to the show for as little as 2 minutes.
In an effort to prove its continued dominance, Netflix cited a Google search graph in its shareholder letter on Tuesday showing more searches for “The Witcher” last quarter than Disney’s hit “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian,” Amazon’s spy thriller, “Jack Ryan,” and Apple’s marquee series, “The Morning Show.”