NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Netflix's ( NFLX) third-quarter earnings are relatively meaningless, since for the most part, we know what to expect. But there are several other elements from tonight's report that carry more weight than the actual numbers. Fourth-quarter guidance is the ultimate decider of where the stock will trade following its report after the close on Monday. "Although third-quarter numbers are well understood, there is very little clarity on what or even how Netflix will guide for the fourth quarter," Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Nat Schindler wrote in a note. Netflix revised its domestic subscriber growth for the third quarter in September, calling for about 24 million U.S. users from a prior estimate of 25 million. The company ended the second quarter with 24.6 million domestic subscribers. >3 Reasons Netflix's Reed Hastings Shouldn't Be Fired...Yet But Netflix management seemed confident that churn would recover by the end of the year. Is CEO Reed Hastings still as confident? "After the termination of Qwikster, investors have focused on the potential for elevated churn in the fourth quarter. Consequently, fourth-quarter subscriber guidance will likely be critical to near-term stock performance when Netflix reports third-quarter results," Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves wrote in a research note. Investors' fourth-quarter expectations are also questionable. "Unfortunately, ongoing changes to pricing and reporting metrics make it difficult to tell precisely how low expectations are," Hargreaves noted. "Further, we have little insight into the magnitude of churn in the weeks following the Qwikster announcement." Transparency also will be critical in determining the movement of Netflix's stock. Following several
strategic blunders , which include raising prices, ending talks to renew its streaming contract with Liberty Starz, and canceling the rebranding of its DVD business, Hastings will need to provide investors with some good explanations. "The impact of Netflix's third-quarter call will likely be driven by whether management provides sufficient transparency into the company's recent roller coaster of uncharacteristic business decisions," Schindler wrote in a note. "If the company opens up and explains in detail its recent actions and the relative prospects of both streaming and DVD segments, we believe the stock should perform well." Breaking out the financials of its three core businesses also could be a catalyst for the stock.
"We believe margins of streaming and DVD business will continue to be deeply questioned if Netflix decides not to release separate financials (which we do not expect)," Schindler wrote. "Many believe the DVD business is the main margin contributor; we do not." Wall Street is calling for a third-quarter profit of 95 cents a share on revenue of $811.8 million. But whisper expectations come in a bit higher, around 99 cents. Netflix has trumped consensus estimates in the three of the past four quarters by an average of more than 9%. Shares of Netflix have lost about 60% during the three-month period. Ahead of results, Netflix announced Monday morning that it plans on entering the U.K. and Ireland with its streaming service in 2012. - Reported by Jeanine Poggi in New York. Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.