Netflix Packs on Record 15.7 Million Subscribers in Q1, Getting Huge Lift From Coronavirus Lockdowns

Netflix added a net 15.77 million paid streaming customers in the first quarter of 2020 — blowing away prior estimates thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and setting a record for quarterly gains.

The streamer said it had 182.9 million paid subscribers globally as of the end of Q1, up 22.8% from a year earlier. Netflix had previously told investors it expected to add 7.0 million subs in the quarter, but that was before COVID-19 kept millions of people homebound.

© Courtesy of NETFLIX

“[O]ur membership growth has temporarily accelerated due to home confinement,” Netflix said in its quarterly shareholder letter. In addition, it also said that due to the shutdown of Hollywood productions “some cash spending on content will be delayed, improving our free cash flow, and some title releases will be delayed, typically by a quarter.”

Wall Street estimates for how big Netflix’s Q1 “quarantine bump” might be were mixed. Some analysts expected the company to report in-line with the prior 7 million guidance, while others forecast global net gains of 8.5 million or as much as 10 million.

Analyst consensus estimates for Netflix’s earnings were for revenue of $5.76 billion and EPS of $1.65.

One of the most popular shows on Netflix during the quarter was docuseries “Tiger King.” Nielsen said the show lured 34.3 unique TV viewers in the U.S. within the first 10 days of release, topping “Stranger Things” Season 2 over the same timeframe.

Even with the Q1 subscriber surge, Netflix faces stepped-up competition for market share, particularly in the U.S. WarnerMedia plans to launch HBO Max on May 27, and NBCUniversal currently has set the national rollout of Peacock for July 15. Meanwhile, Disney Plus has been going gangbusters, having signed up 50 million paid subscribers worldwide as of early April — just five months after its initial launch.

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