April 15, 2015
Video streaming pioneer Netflix Inc added more subscribers than projected in the United States and abroad during the first quarter, news that sent its shares up nearly 12 percent on Wednesday.
Net subscriber additions rose 22 percent year-over-year to 4.88 million in the March quarter, beating the company's forecast of 4.05 million.
The company that shook up television with original shows such as "House of Cards" has been aggressively building its overseas presence as growth slows in the United States. It launched services in Australia and New Zealand in the quarter and expects to start in Japan later this year.
Netflix added 2.6 million customers in its nearly 50 international markets in the quarter ended March 31, bringing the total to 62.27 million users worldwide.
Customers spent more time than ever watching Netflix, streaming 10 billion hours of programming in the quarter, the company said.
Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings said fresh content including the third season of "House of Cards" and new series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "Bloodline" helped bring in new customers.
"We've continued to focus on the same things over the last couple years, improving the content, improving the streaming, improving the user interface, and we've seen the rewards of that in continued growth," Hastings told analysts during a webcast.
The company said it expects to sign up 600,000 more U.S. customers in the current quarter, plus 2.5 million worldwide.
Netflix shares rose 11.6 percent to $530.90 in after-hours trading.
The company has been investing in original shows to fend off competition from Time Warner Inc's HBO, Amazon.com and Hulu, as well as on-demand offerings from pay TV providers.
Netflix said retention of customers improved in the United States. "As they build up their catalog of original titles, they're going to keep more and more customers," Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.
The company also said it would ask its board to approve a stock split.
Revenue rose to $1.57 billion from $1.27 billion a year earlier. (http://bit.ly/1JL8nFk)
Spending on international expansion hit first-quarter earnings, which more than halved to $23.7 million, or 38 cents per share.
Netflix said the strong dollar hurt its financial results. Excluding foreign exchange losses, the company said it earned 77 cents per share.
Analysts on average had expected a profit of 69 cents per share on revenue of $1.57 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.