Last week, Netflix really was a joke. “Every year I say ‘Fuck Netflix,’ and this year it came true,” Jimmy Kimmel quipped via Zoom during Tuesday’s Disney upfront. However, in the last month or so Netflix has lost so much more than its pride that it’s hard to keep track. We’ll try.
Subscribers, Part 1: –200,000. The streaming giant shed 200,000 global paid subscribers in the first quarter of 2022, its first loss in a decade. Some of this was the disruption of service in Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine…
Subscribers, Part 2: –2 million. … but it’s mostly because Netflix is realizing a rapidly maturing marketplace in the U.S. and Canada, where the company was down 600,000 subscribers. The sudden impact of that not-so-sudden reality has Netflix expecting to lose another 2 million subscribers by the time it reveals second-quarter (April-June) results in July. The media analysts at MoffettNathanson forecast 280 million global paid subscribers by 2025; Netflix ended Q1 with nearly 222 million subs.
NFLX Stock Price: -47 percent. As a result of the shocking sudden loss and looming larger loss, Netflix stock (NFLX) tanked 35 percent overnight (and as a result of that, Netflix got sued by a group of shareholders). The company that briefly eclipsed $700 per share in the fall soon found itself trading for as low as $162.71 per share. At this writing, NFLX shares were selling for just under $184 apiece. MoffettNathanson currently maintains a “neutral” rating for Netflix stock and a target price of $245. So it’s a bargain to them, but not quite enough to call it a “buy.”
Market Cap: -$68 billion. To look at it another (depressing) way, Netflix was worth north of $300 billion in mid-November — and as low as $73.91 billion earlier this month. From the afternoon of April 19 (when the Q1 results came out) to the stock market’s re-opening on April 20, Netflix lost nearly $55 billion overnight. The publicly traded corporation’s market cap clawed back above $80 billion last week.
Prestige: Unmeasurable. Along with all of that cash, Netflix has also lost cachet. The streamer no longer has swagger, and the market no longer has confidence. Netflix was seen as unbeatable — until it wasn’t.
Employees: -150. One week ago today, Netflix laid off 150 employees; more layoffs are expected. “As we explained on earnings, our slowing revenue growth means we are also having to slow our cost growth as a company,” a Netflix spokesperson told IndieWire at the time. “So sadly, we are letting around 150 employees go today, mostly U.S.-based. These changes are primarily driven by business needs rather than individual performance, which makes them especially tough as none of us want to say goodbye to such great colleagues. We’re working hard to support them through this very difficult transition.”
Projects: Animation. In the wake of all that falling short, Netflix has scrapped multiple animated titles including Ava DuVernay’s “Wings of Fire,” Meghan Markle’s “Pearl,” “Bone,” “Antiracist Baby,” “With Kind Regards From Kindergarten,” and “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You.”
The Fix. So what is Netflix doing to rectify all of this? Well, it’s trying to monetize its password-sharing problem. It also plans to add ads for the first time ever, previously a sacrilegious notion. The give-and-take there is that while an AVOD tier will command less subscription revenue, it will bring in a much-needed second revenue stream.
Globally, that trade-off will work in Netflix’s favor: ARPU (average revenue per user) for current and future subscribers in poorer nations will multiply immediately. Netflix currently makes pennies on the dollar from subscribers in certain African nations and in India, where residents are far more willing to sit through commercials than we are.
Are password restrictions (still in a test phase in certain Central American markets) and Netflix’s pending AVOD addition enough to shore up the company’s financial future? When MoffettNathanson adjusted its NFLX valuation downward earlier this month, the analysts noted the new target price was “until we dig deeper on the implications of all the potential changes to the business model, including password sharing and adding an ad-tier.”
There’s another way to arrive at profits, although it’s not one that will return the stock to $700 per share: cutting costs. Unfortunately, layoffs and scrapping planned projects are the fastest ways to shave expenses.
While suddenly counting pennies in some ways, a Netflix source told IndieWire the company still plans to spend $17 billion on content overall in 2022. That’s a little more than half of what Disney plans to spend across its many, many platforms. Hey, Netflix is still number one in something: MoffettNathanson estimates Netflix’s streaming content spend still leads the industry.