The Netflix Pricing Wars

Netflix co-C.E.O. Ted Sarandos said he was “open to all different models that are out there right now."
Netflix co-C.E.O. Ted Sarandos said he was “open to all different models that are out there right now." Photo: Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images
Julia Alexander
July 27, 2023

Hollywood analysts, myself included, spent much of the past week poring over Netflix earnings—noting, for example, that the average revenue per member (ARM) slipped three percent year-over-year, which helped explain why the stock dropped eight percent (alongside weaker revenue guidance). But that’s not the real story about Netflix. As the company implemented its password crackdown this quarter, C.F.O. Spencer Neumann said it made the deliberate decision not to raise prices again across its various tiers. At least not yet.

A decade after truly taking Hollywood by storm with enormous content spends and audacious deals with creators, Netflix’s next era of growth will depend less on splashy overalls or Bela Bajaria’s gourmet cheeseburgers than on something more prosaic: pricing. In the U.S., for example, Netflix is introducing cheaper ad tiers, cracking down on account sharing, and likely preparing more price hikes to continue profiting off its members even if growth stalls. 

Netflix needs to mitigate churn in saturated regions and scale its cheaper ad tier to charge the CPMs necessary to make up that revenue. This growth will be key outside of the U.S., where average revenue per member is lower and cost-conscious consumers make actual household penetration even harder. It’s more important to get them onto Netflix than making large amounts of revenue off them.