Netflix hit a grand slam in Q4 ’17, adding a total of 8.3 million global subscribers, the biggest in the company’s history and up 18% compared to 7.05 million added in Q4 ’16 and a forecast of 6.3 million. Domestically, Netflix added 1.98 million vs. 1.93 million in Q4 ’16 and ahead of the 1.25 million forecast. Internationally, Netflix added 6.36 million vs. 5.12 million in Q4 ’16 and above the forecast of 5.05 million. Netflix executives did not break down regional results, instead saying performance was “strong across the board.”
In total, Netflix added 23.8 million subscribers in 2017, compared to 19 million in 2016, an increase of 25% year-over-year.
Netflix’s executives clearly pointed to hit content such as “13 Reasons Why,” “Stranger Things,” “Bright” and “The Crown” as the key reason for the strong quarter. On the earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings said about these titles, “That’s what pulls in people who haven’t yet joined as all their friends are talking about the shows. That’s the dominant accelerator.”
The emphasis on content’s role contrasts with the less concrete explanations executives provided 3 months ago in reviewing Q3’s strong performance. At the time, more emphasis was put on the overall trend toward Internet TV adoption. Netflix said its average streaming hours per membership grew by 9% in 2017.
No doubt Netflix’s incredible performance is being driven by word of mouth and programs and movies that play well around the world. And in 2018 Netflix will deepen its bet on the content driven strategy, planning to spend $8 billion, including 80 movies that span from low-budget to tentpoles like “Bright.”
As a sign of its optimism, Netflix is forecasting 6.35 million subscriber additions in Q1 ’18 (1.45 million in the U.S. and 4.9 million internationally). These are above Q1 ’17 actuals of 1.42 million additions in the U.S. and 3.53 million internationally.
As Colin and I discussed on our podcast last October, reviewing the Q3 results, the SVOD market dynamic is well-formed at least for now: there’s Netflix and there’s everyone else. There is no other SVOD provider that has close to the global footprint of 118 million subscribers, which is pivotal for amortizing its massive multi-billion content budget. Netflix continues to execute extremely well and appears to have lots of runway ahead of it.