Netflix on Tuesday reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers during the first quarter — its first decline in paid users in more than a decade — and warned of deepening trouble ahead.
The company’s shares cratered more than 25% in extended hours after the report on more than a full day’s worth of trading volume. Fellow streaming stocks Roku, Spotify and Disney also tumbled in the after-hours market after Netflix’s brutal update.
Netflix is forecasting a global paid subscriber loss of 2 million for the second quarter. The last time Netflix lost subscribers was October 2011.
“Our revenue growth has slowed considerably,” the company wrote in a letter to shareholders Tuesday. “Streaming is winning over linear, as we predicted, and Netflix titles are very popular globally. However, our relatively high household penetration — when including the large number of households sharing accounts — combined with competition, is creating revenue growth headwinds.”
Netflix previously told shareholders it expected to add 2.5 million net subscribers during the first quarter. Analysts had predicted that number would be closer to 2.7 million. During the same period a year ago, Netflix added 3.98 million paid users.
Co-CEO Reed Hastings said the company is exploring lower-priced, ad-supported tiers in a bid to bring in new subscribers after years of resisting advertisements on the platform.
The company said that the suspension of its service in Russia and the winding-down of all Russian paid memberships resulted in a loss of 700,000 subscribers. Excluding that impact, the company said it would have seen 500,000 net additions during the most recent quarter.
Netflix also cited growing competition from recent streaming launches by traditional entertainment companies, as well as rampant password sharing for the recent stall in paid subscriptions.
The company estimates that in addition to its 222 million paying households, access is being shared with more than 100 million additional households through account sharing. It warned a global crackdown could be coming.
Netflix was an earlier winner when Covid lockdowns sent families inside and searching for entertainment. But the company now says pandemic-era gains “clouded the picture” for the company and that it’s seeing a downturn as people return to more normalized out-of-home activities.
In an effort to continue to gain share in the market, Netflix has increased its content spend, particularly on originals. To pay for it, it’s hiked prices of its service. The company said Tuesday those price changes are helping to bolster revenue, but were partially responsible for a loss of 600,000 subscribers in the U.S. and Canada during the most recent quarter.
While the company is exploring other options for growth, such as adding video games, analysts and investors are wondering what else Netflix can do to bolster profits.
The company’s revenue increased nearly 10% to $7.87 billion, but fell short of analysts’ expectations of $7.93 billion.
Net income during the quarter ended March 31 fell 6.4% to $1.6 billion, down from $1.7 billion the year prior. Excluding items, the company earned $3.53 per share, well above the $2.89 per share analysts had expected, according to a Refinitiv survey.
The company’s free cash flow amounted to $802 million during the quarter, up from $692 million a year earlier.