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Netflix revenue grows but subs slow for Q1, $17 billion content spend set for ’21

Netflix ended the first quarter of 2021 with US$7.16 billion in revenue and 208 million paid memberships as the streaming giant looks to spend $17 billion on content this year. The company ...
April 21, 2021

Netflix ended the first quarter of 2021 with US$7.16 billion in revenue and 208 million paid memberships as the streaming giant looks to spend $17 billion on content this year.

The company reported 24% year-over-year revenue growth in Q1 ’21, up from $5.77 billion in the year ago quarter and $6.64 billion in Q4 2020.

However, paid memberships — up 14% YOY — were below the 210 million subscribers forecasted. The quarter saw paid net additions of four million, below Netflix’s estimated six million and the 16 million net additions in the year-ago quarter.

The streamer is projecting one million paid net additions in the second quarter with the United States/Canada and Latin American regions remaining roughly flat and paid membership growth “re-accelerating” in the second half of the year.

Netflix also reported churn in the first quarter was below Q1 ’20 levels.


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“We believe paid membership growth slowed due to the big COVID-19 pull forward in 2020 and a lighter content slate in the first half of this year, due to COVID-19 production delays,” the company stated in a letter to shareholders Tuesday (April 20). “In the short-term, there is some uncertainty from COVID-19; in the long-term, the rise of streaming to replace linear TV around the world is the clear trend in entertainment.”

In the wake of pandemic-related distribution, Netflix was in the process of ramping up its production late last year, contributing to lower content spend in Q1 2021 and a 10 percentage point jump in its operating margin to 27% — an all-time high.

“These dynamics are also contributing to a lighter content slate in the first half of 2021, and hence, we believe slower membership growth,” the letter says.

“The production delays from COVID-19 in 2020 will lead to a 2021 slate that is more heavily second half weighted with a large number of returning franchises. And while the roll out of vaccines is very uneven across the world, we are back up and producing safely in every major market, with the exception of Brazil and India.”

Assuming that continues, Netflix is planning to spend $17 billion in cash on content this year, with more originals rolling out compared to last year.

The streamer grew its slate of unscripted content last year with formats such as Love Is BlindThe CircleSelling Sunset and Too Hot to Handle. Last month, Netflix doubled down on docusoaps, announcing two new series from the production teams behind Selling Sunset and Bling Empire.

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