Netflix Inc. (NFLX) - Get Free Report shares surged higher Thursday after it added more international subscribers to its streaming service than Wall Street had forecast for the third quarter, easing concerns over the impact of rival offerings from Apple (AAPL) - Get Free Report , Walt Disney (DIS) - Get Free Report and Amazon (AMZN) - Get Free Report .
Netflix said 6.255 million new customers were added to its entertainment streaming service, up 6.5% from the same period last year well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of around 6.05 million. That figure offset disappointing figures from the United States, where additions slumped 52.5% from last year to 517,000, compared to a consensus estimate of around 800,000. Group revenues, Netflix said, rose 31% to $5.245 billion as price hikes in key markets brought in more cash alongside the international additions growth, but still fell shy of Street estimates of $5.52 billion.
Netflix said some of its US subscriber weakness was related to price hikes, but downplayed the notion that new streaming rivals would force significant changes to its business model or its near-term expectations.
"It is interesting that we see both Apple and Disney launching basically in the same week after 12 years of not being in the market," CEO Reed Hastings told investors on a conference call late Wednesday "Fundamentally, it's more of the same, and Disney is going to be a great competitor. Apple is just beginning, but they'll probably have some great shows, too."
"But, again, all of us are competing with linear TV," Hastings argued. "We're all relatively small to linear TV. So just like in the letter we put about the multiple cable networks over the last 30 years not really competing with each other fundamentally but competing with broadcast, I think it's the same kind of dynamic here."
Netflix shares were marked 5.71% higher at the start of trading Thursday to change hands at $303.48 each, a move that would nearly double the stock's year-to-date gain to around 13.4%.
Looking into the final months of 2019, Netflix said it sees paid U.S. additions of around 800,000 for the fourth quarter, with international subscribers growing by 7 million, while revenues increase 30% from the fourth quarter of last year. Netlfix also said it will spend around $15 billion on content this year, a 15.4% increase from 2018.
"While not quite fully "back on track" (e.g., U.S. churn remains slightly elevated post price increase) and competitive launches still sitting on the horizon, we think investors should be building positions as Netflix works through competitive worries and begins to see free cash flow losses narrow in 2020," said BMO Capital Markets analyst Daniel Salmon, who carries an outperform rating on the stock with a $440 price target.
"Fourth quarter guidance has 'a lot of moving parts' according to management, but that includes the biggest original film slate in the company's history and no price increases in any major countries," Salmon adding, noting Netflix is his "top pick" in the global streaming space.