Online movie rental company Netflix ( NFLX) reported a wider first-quarter loss Thursday, despite a huge increase in revenue and a reduced churn rate. Its shares were lower in the after-market session. The company also upped its full-year net income and revenue expectations, and announced an increase in the price of its standard Netflix service to $21.99 a month from $19.95 a month, effective June 15. Netflix's quarterly loss widened to $5.8 million, or 11 cents a share, from $2.4 million, or 5 cents a share, a year earlier, due to marketing expenses associated with its "rapid subscriber growth." Excluding stock-based compensation, the company lost $1.4 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a profit of $31,000, or break-even EPS, a year ago. On that basis, Netflix matched analysts' expectations for a loss of 3 cents a share. The company said revenue skyrocketed 80% to $100.4 million and its churn rate fell to to 4.7% from 5.8% a year ago. Shares of Netflix were moving down $2.56, or 6.9%, to $34.46 in after hours trading Thursday, after having closed up 52 cents, or 1.4%, at $37.02 in the regular session. Gross margin in the quarter was 43.6%, at the low end of the company's guidance, and down from 45.2% in the fourth quarter of 2003. Netflix cited increased movie rentals per average paying subscriber. Netflix had 1.932 million subscribers at the end of the quarter and 760,000 new trial subscribers, an increase of 82% year-over-year. Regarding its price increase for standard service, the company said it expects to increase content spending to improve its rental operations and further reduce churn. As a result, the price increase may elevate churn and depress year-over-year increases in new subscriber trials in the second quarter, Netflix said.
Following that transition quarter, however, the company said the price increase could allow it to maintain 42% to 45% gross margins and improve churn for the rest of 2004. Looking to the second quarter, Netflix expects to earn $1 million to $3.5 million on a generally accepted basis, or $6.4 million to $8.9 million on a non-GAAP basis, with sales of $116 million to $120 million. The company expects total subscribers of 1.935 million to 2.14 million, with churn of 4.9% to 5.9%. In full-year 2004, the company now expects revenue of $485 million to $535 million, up from a previous estimate of $480 million to $505 million. GAAP earnings are seen at $10.5 million to $18.4 million, up from a prior $4 million to $10 million estimate, while the company expects total subscribers to grow to 2.2 million to 2.7 million. Analysts have forecast a profit of 16 cents a share in the second quarter and 50 cents a share in the full year. Netflix said its guidance includes an estimated loss of about $7.5 million from its anticipated international expansion.