Wednesday, January 20, 2021, 10:04 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Netflix reported its Q4 and full year results late yesterday, ending 2020 with 203.7 million global subscribers. For the full year Netflix gained 36.6 million subscribers, expanding its base by nearly 22%. Approximately 43% of the year’s gain, or 15.8 million subscribers, came in Q1, as Covid-related sign-ups surged in the last few weeks of the quarter.
In Q4, Netflix added 8.5 million subscribers, beating its forecast of 6 million additions. EMEA was the biggest contributor in the quarter, up 4.5 million subscribers, or about 53% of total. EMEA is Netflix’s second-biggest region, with 66.7 million subscribers, or 32.7% of total. The UCAN region (U.S. plus Canada) remains the biggest region by subscribers and average revenue per subscriber. UCAN accounted for 73.9 million subscribers at year end, or about 36.3% of total. However, UCAN grew by just 860K subscribers in Q4, the lowest of the four regions.
UCAN’s $13.51 average revenue per month per subscriber surpasses EMEA ($11.05 per month), APAC ($9.32 per month) and LATAM ($7.12 per month). UCAN’s average revenue per month per subscriber was up from Q1 ($13.22) to Q4 ($13.51). EMEA had the biggest increase (from $10.51 in Q1 to $11.05 in Q4), followed by APAC (from $9.07 to $9.32). LATAM actually dropped from $8.18 in Q1 to $7.12 in Q4).
Stepping back, Netflix’s subscriber growth in 2020 was heavily influenced by the Covid stay-at-home orders around the world. With time on their hands and few places to go, viewers adopted Netflix and other streaming services at a record pace.
By comparison, Netflix added 27.8 million subscribers in all of 2019, and actually lost 130K subscribers in UCAN in Q2 ’19. Given the trends from just a year ago, at the time I thought there was reason to believe that Netflix could lose subscribers in Q1 ’20 (as well as Q2 ’20). Covid upended all prior assumptions about Netflix’s growth.
Beyond its subscriber growth, Netflix also made an important financial announcement, that it is very close to being sustainably free cash flow positive, and that it won’t have a need to raise external financing for day-to-day operations. Further, Netflix said as it generates excess cash it may consider stock buybacks.