Media & Telecom

Netflix growth plan tops Wall St watchlist as lockdown love fades

3 minute read

July 20 (Reuters) - Netflix Inc's (NFLX.O) plans to revive its slowing subscriber growth will be in focus when it reports second-quarter results on Tuesday, as lockdown binge-watching subsides and competition from Disney+ and HBO Max ramps up.

Netflix has forecast it would add just 1 million subscribers globally in the second quarter, a tenth of what it added a year ago when COVID-19 restrictions forced people to seek entertainment at home.

The streaming pioneer has also been losing market share to new services such as Disney+, Apple's (AAPL.O) Apple TV+, WarnerMedia's HBO Max and Comcast's (CMCSA.O) Peacock. To be sure, the industry's overall subscriber growth has also slowed as the U.S. market saturates.

THE CONTEXT

Some Wall Street analysts have said a first-mover advantage will only take it so far and that Netflix needs to produce new content, renew content licenses and explore other revenue sources such as live sports and advertising to turbo-charge growth.

Co-CEO Reed Hastings has long been opposed to adopting an advertising model saying it would have to compete with market leaders Google, Facebook and Amazon.

The company is exploring an e-commerce push to sell content-related merchandise and recently hired Facebook executive Mike Verdu to anchor its gaming expansion.

But analysts are skeptical about the gaming move.

"While this strategy could be marginally accretive to Netflix's member and revenue growth, we doubt the platform would be meaningfully competitive with endemic gaming platforms or content publishers anytime soon," said Matthew Thornton, analyst at Truist Securities.

For now, Netflix is under intense pressure to produce new content, after big hits like "Emily in Paris", "Bridgerton", "The Queen's Gambit" and "The Crown" in 2020. The pandemic delayed production, but the company has announced new seasons of "Stranger Things" and "Ozark" among others coming next year.

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A smartphone with the Netflix logo is seen on a keyboard in front of displayed "Streaming service" words in this illustration taken March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

FUNDAMENTALS

* Analysts estimate Netflix's second-quarter revenue to grow 19% to $7.32 billion. Revenue in North America, its biggest region by revenue, is set to increase by 13.4%.

* Earnings per share is estimated at $3.16

* Its shares have lost 1.5% year-to-date, while the benchmark S&P 500 index (.SPX) has gained 13.4%.

* The stock, which soared 67% in 2020, is also the weakest performer among FAANG stocks this year.

WALL STREET SENTIMENT

* Wall Street analysts are largely bullish, with 36 out of 46 rating the stock "buy" or higher, while six have a "hold" rating and four rate it as a "sell" or lower.

* The median price target is $620 versus the current price of $532.30

Reporting by Nivedita Balu and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Sweta Singh, Anshuman Daga and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty

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