Internet video giant Netflix (NFLX) - Get Report, which on Thursday collected Emmy nominations for 17 programs, is set to announce second-quarter earnings on Monday. The Los Gatos, Calif., company is expected to beat expectations on its closely watched metric of new subscribers, but many observers still remain concerned about its upcoming guidance.
In its first quarter, ended March 31, the company disappointed with weak subscriber forecasts, sending its stock into a nearly 10% decline in after-hours trading following the earnings release.
Even if Netflix beats expectations for the numbers of its new subscribers in the latest quarter, there are lingering concerns that its growth will be stunted in coming months as viewers gravitate toward the televised Rio Summer Olympics and an $8.99 per month subscription version of the Prime Video streaming service that Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report announced in April. After a recent price hike, Netflix now charges $9.99 for its most popular plan.
"While we don't think that Amazon will attract many current Netflix customers, we think it is foolish to assume that new customers will favor Netflix over Amazon every time," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter wrote in a recent report, in which he maintained his underperform rating. "We are confident that with its new standalone service, Amazon declared war on Netflix."
Pachter expects the company to report revenue of at least $2.17 billion with earnings of 3 cents a share, compared with the Street consensus of $2.11 billion in revenue and 2 cents in earnings per share.
Netflix's second-quarter release of the highly rated Orange is the New Black likely will boost subscriber counts, according to analysts, as well as keep its churn -- customers who drop the service -- at a minimum.
"We think that Netflix is set up for a beat on international subscribers that could fuel a rally in the name," wrote Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson, who nevertheless maintained his neutral rating on the stock and an $85 target price. The stock on Friday afternoon was trading at $98.15 after a run-up in recent weeks.
Netflix's continued rollout of international territories could add between 2.2 million and 2.7 million new international customers, Nathanson said, using usage data from app data firm Apptopia.
During its first-quarter earnings announcement, Netflix guided the Street toward 2 million international subscribers, a drop from the 2.4 million in new international customers it added a year earlier. It forecast a decline in new U.S. customers to 500,000 from 900,000, saying it already had reached a majority of potential domestic customers.
Also unclear is how the Brexit vote might play out with Netflix international subscribers. An analysis of Netflix app downloads showed a softening in Southern Europe, France and Germany, UBS analyst Doug Mitchelson wrote, who reiterated his buy rating but lowered his 12-month price target. He also lowered his third-quarter estimate to 2.6 million new international customers from 3.44 million.
Another headwind for Netflix is margin compression as it continues its recent push to create its own programming to take on new content for Amazon and the media company-backed Hulu subscription service. In the second quarter Netflix launched new seasons for seven shows, including Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Bloodline.
In all, the company said it will increase the amounts it spends on content from $5 billion this year to more than $6 billion in 2017.
"We expect Netflix to continue to bleed cash for the foreseeable future," wrote Pachter, who figures the company will have a cash burn of $1.38 billion this year, up from $920 million a year ago.
"This creates a double-whammy for Netflix -- higher content spend and slowing subscriber growth" if Amazon begins to take market share, Pachter wrote.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.