Netflix narrowly missed its own subscriber projections for the fourth quarter of 2021 and saw its market value promptly cut by a fifth, despite gaining 8.28 million subscribers and ending the year with a total of nearly 222 million and full-year revenue of $30 billion. While Netflix has been successful with shows like Squid Game, the movies Red Notice and Don’t Look Up, and winning the most Emmy and Oscar awards of 2021, investors are apparently nervous about a slowdown in subscriber growth.
The bigger Netflix gets, the harder it is to grow bigger. Netflix gained 18 million subscribers in 2021, compared to 37 million the previous year, which was boosted by coronavirus restrictions.
Although Netflix added 8.28 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2021, compared to 8.51 million in the same quarter the year before, the year-on-year growth was 8.9% compared to 21.9%.
The number of subscribers in Europe and the Middle East grew the most, by 3.54 million in the fourth quarter, compared to 4.46 million the same quarter a year before.
In the Asia Pacific region, the number of subscribers increased by 2.58 million, up from 1.99 million in the same period the previous year.
In Latin America, Netflix added 0.97 million subscribers, down on 1.21 million a year before, attributed to macro-economic hardship.
In the United States and Canada, there were 1.19 million additional subscribers, compared to just 70,000 the previous quarter and up on 0.86 million in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Netflix gained only 1.3 million subscribers in the United States and Canada in 2021, compared to 6.3 million the year before.
Netflix is forecasting just 2.50 million additional subscribers worldwide in the first quarter of 2022, compared to 3.98 million in the first three months of 2021, although no doubt it hopes to beat its own projections, as it has done in all but six quarters over the last five years.
The company acknowledges that competition has intensified over the last two years as entertainment companies around the world develop their own online offerings, but it believes that it still has “tremendous room for growth”.
“So, for now, we’re just like staying calm and trying to figure out,” Reed Hastings, the co-chief executive told analysts. He admitted that the slower growth was “frustrating for us”.
Ted Sarandos, his co-chief executive and chief content officer, said “It’s proving that great storytelling from anywhere in the world can entertain the world.” He added: “our other big bet was our investment in big-budget feature films and our bet that we could effectively release them and compete with big theatrical releases for audience and for attention.”
Netflix is increasing its monthly subscription in the United States and Canada by $1-2 a month to increase revenue, while reducing it in India by up to 60% in the hope of boosting subscriber numbers.