Netflix’s subscriber growth is surging again, providing an early sign that its shift to include ads in a cheaper version of its video streaming service is helping to combat tougher competition and attract cost-conscious customers grappling with inflation.
The company on Thursday disclosed a gain of 7.7 million subscribers during the October-December period, a stretch that included the debut of an ad-supported option for $7 per month – less than half the price of its most popular commercial-free plan. The performance followed subscriber gains that topped analysts’ modest expectations during a July-September period that followed Netflix’s second consecutive quarter of customer losses.
Having regained its momentum, Netflix also announced its co-founder Reed Hastings will relinquish its title of co-CEO, completing a transition that began in July 2020 with the appointment of its programming chief, Ted Sarandos, as co-CEO. Greg Peters, Netflix’s chief operating officer, will join Sarandos as co-CEO while Hastings becomes executive chairman.
Hastings, 62, had been Netflix’s CEO for more than 20 years after taking over the role from its friend and fellow company co-founder Marc Randolph in the late 1990s.
In a blog post, Hastings said he, Sarandos, and Peters have “all learned how to bring out the best in each other. I look forward to working with them in this role for many years to come.”
The upturn in Netflix’s subscribers didn’t boost profits, largely because the strong dollar weighed on international results. The Los Gatos, California, company earned $55.3 million, or 12 cents per share, during the fourth quarter, a 91% decline from the same time in the prior year. Revenue rose 2% from the previous year to $7.85 billion, a modest gain that suggest some ongoing subscribers may have hopscotched from a more expensive plan to the lower priced ad-backed option.
The earnings fell below the predictions of analysts who shape investors’ expectations. But investors appeared to be more focused on the subscribers gains that were far above projections. Netflix’s shares climbed 6% in extended trading to $335.01. The stock price has double from a five-year low of $162.71 reached last May, but is still far below its all-time high of nearly $701 in November 2021.