If the entire streaming video industry has felt jittery of late, that’s in large part because the company that effectively created that very business had hit a rough patch. Yes, Netflix, as you may have heard, has been facing something of an identity crisis ever since Wall Street lost faith in the streamer’s ability to spend its way to infinite growth, causing its stock to sell off by more than 70 percent before beginning to recover. That rebound accelerated with today’s third quarter earnings report—Netflix added 2.4 million new subscribers, although only about 100,000 in the U.S., and grew annual revenue by nearly 6 percent despite macroeconomic conditions—causing the stock to pop some 35 percent after trading hours.
It was a much needed confidence booster (not fantastic, but not terrible) for Netflix after losing close to 1 million subscribers globally in Q2 (more than 1.3 million subs churned in its most profitable region, the U.S. and Canada). It also marks a new attempt to shift the narrative in Hollywood’s streaming landscape. Notably, Netflix informed shareholders that it would stop providing guidance for its number of paid subscribers as Wall Street shifts its attention to revenue. So while total paid memberships will still be reported, Netflix isn’t going to try to guide those expectations. It’s all about revenue now. Or, at least, that’s the idea.
That’s a convenient narrative shift for Netflix, given that it’s one of the few streamers that make real money—$1.4 billion in net profit on nearly $8 billion in revenue last quarter. Indeed, today’s earnings report goes out of the way to note that “all of these competitors are losing money on streaming, with aggregate annual direct operating losses this year alone that could be well in excess of $10 billion.” Makes sense—why set up questions about slow subscriber growth in key markets when direct-to-consumer revenue is the story everyone on Wall Street is chasing, and Netflix has the clear advantage?