Netflix hits record after subscribers leap past 200 million

Lula Sharp
January 21, 2021

Netflix has surpassed 200 million subscribers globally for the first time in its history.

The world's largest streaming service had raised $15 billion through debt in less than a decade.

In another breakthrough, Netflix predicted it will no longer need to raise additional cash from lenders to help finance its original-programming budget.

Netflix said it will explore returning excess cash to shareholders via share buybacks. This translated to revenues of more than US$24 billion for the year, up 24% year-over-year.

Netflix says that The Crown was its biggest series success of 2020, with over 100 million viewers since the first season debuted.

The additions topped Wall Street estimates of 6.1 million, according to Refinitiv data, despite increased competition and a USA price increase.

Earnings per share were $1.19, lower than the $1.39 that analysts had expected. It ended the quarter with 203.3 million paying subscribers, with a year-over-year growth rate of 22 percent.

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Now, Netflix is working to add customers around the globe as big media companies amp up competition.

That came as competition increased, with Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock all arriving with backing from the company's main competitors, and Paramount+ poised to lead the charge in 2021.

Disney said in December it had already signed up 86.8 million subscribers to Disney+ in just over a year.

"It is super impressive what Disney has done", Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said in Tuesday video discussion with investors. "We're confident we'll continue to have a great content offering for our members", the letter notes.

Netflix said most of its growth a year ago - 83% of new customers - came from outside the United States and Canada. (At this point, Disney Plus is only available in a handful of territories, including Europe and Canada; in India and Indonesia it is available through Disney Plus Hotstar.) The company said that 83% of its new 2020 subscribers are from outside of the United States and Canada. It has set a target of 6 million subscriber adds in Q1 2021, while CFO Spencer Neumann said that after that "it's just so hard [to predict] in this time" and added that the company would not be providing a full year guide.

"This approach has allowed us to organically increase revenue by $4-$5 billion annually over the past several years", it added.

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