Netflix ended 2019 with 167.09 million paid members, with over 100 million of them outside the United States. It says that 76 million member households watched its latest hit, The Witcher, although it has adopted a rather loose definition of watching such a series.
Global net additions to paid subscribers were 8.8 million in the last quarter of 2019, the same as the in the same period the previous year and ahead of its own guidance of 7.6 million.
Year-on-year growth in memberships is slowing, from 25.9% in the last quarter of 2018 to 20.0% in the last quarter of 2019 and is forecast to fall to 16.9% in the first quarter of 2020, when it expects to add 7.0 million members.
Even with most of the world as an addressable market, it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain growth, but Netflix numbers are still rising apparently inexorably, at least outside the United States.
As an increasingly global player, Netflix no longer talks about domestic and international members, but in terms of four global regions.
In the United States and Canada, Netflix added 0.55 million subscribers in the last quarter of 2019, up by 2.9 million over a year to 67.66 million.
In the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, Netflix gained 4.42 million in the last quarter, an increase of 13.96 million in a year to a total of 521.78 million.
In Latin America there were 31.42 million Netflix members at the end of 2019, compared to 26.08 million at the end of the previous year.
In the Asia Pacific region Netflix had 16.23 million members, up from 10.61 million a year before.
Netflix attributed its lower membership growth in the United States to recent price changes and the launch of competitive services. It said it had seen more muted impact in other regions in which Disney has launched.
Netflix reported over 21 million member households watched the third season of The Crown in its first four weeks, up over 40% from the second season over the same period. In total, over 73 million households worldwide have watched The Crown since it launched in 2016.
76 million member households watched The Witcher fantasy drama in in its first four weeks, making it the biggest series launch on Netflix.
40 million watched Klaus, a Santa Claus origin story, the first original feature-length Netflix animation.
Netflix no longer reports views based on viewing 70% of a single episode or movie. Instead it is reports on households that chose to watch a given title. It says this is a similar to the way the BBC counts requests for the iPlayer.
This results in figures that are on average 35% higher. For example, 45 million member households chose to watch Our Planet, compared to 33 million under the previous metric. In other words, 12 million more people chose to watch at least some of one episode than watched at least 70% of one episode.
Netflix notes that many media companies and tech giants are launching streaming service but suggests that there is ample for “many services to grow as linear TV wanes”.
Speaking to analysts, chief executive Reed Hastings said “We’ve had the same strategy basically for 20 years, which is, please our members and they helped us grow.”
Once again, he took the opportunity to dismiss the possibility of introducing advertising as a revenue stream, pointing out that even with its numbers, Netflix has nothing like the data collection capability of Google or Facebook.
“We’re really focused on just making our members happy and we’re not tied up with all that controversy around advertising.”