Netflix on Tuesday topped subscriber growth expectations in the past quarter, keeping ahead of new streaming rivals competing for viewers stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
The streaming television leader added some 8.5 million paid subscribers in the quarter to reach 203 million, topping 200 million despite recent price hikes, its quarterly earning update showed.
“Covid-19 has accelerated that big shift from linear to streaming entertainment,” Netflix chief financial officer Spencer Neumann said on an earnings call.
“So, the underlying long-term looks good.”
The company’s cash flow was so strong that it will no longer borrow money to pay for operations, and is considering starting to buy back shares, according to a letter to investors.
Netflix shares jumped more than 12% in after-market trades following the release.
Profits dipped to $542 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $587 million in the same period in 2019. But overall revenue in the quarter surged 21.5% to $6.6 billion.
For the full year, Netflix added a record 37 million paid memberships, according to the earnings report.
“We’re enormously grateful that in these uniquely challenging times we’ve been able to provide our members around the world with a source of escape, connection and joy while continuing to build our business,” Netflix said in a letter to investors.
Paid membership increased 23% in the final quarter of 2020 when compared with the same period a year earlier, but average revenue per membership was flat, according to the Silicon Valley-based company.
While Netflix raised rates slightly in the US late last year, the majority – some 83% – of its new subscribers were from outside North America, the earnings report indicated.
By Lungelo Matangira for EWN
Over 100 000 people have signed an online petition calling for pay-TV provider DStv to cut its prices for South Africa, as it does for other African countries, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
The petition, launched by Sifiso Gwala a week ago, had 109 016 signatures by midday on Wednesday afternoon.
“DStv drops prices for the rest of Africa except South Africa and now this. We’re being taken for granted here #DstvMustFall,” Gwala said in the petition.
In 2019, DStv cut prices in a number of African countries such as Kenya and Nigeria. This, however, has never happened in South Africa.
Now, amid job losses, salary cuts and struggling businesses during the lockdown, South Africans want the same to happen for local subscribers.
“Prices are too high, can’t afford it” and “we must choose the channels we want”, said some supporters.
DStv is yet to respond to the petition.
MTN lost almost two-million subscribers in South Africa in the six months to June and service revenue growth slowed by 3.3 percent in a stubbornly weak economy.
MTN, Africa’s telecoms giant, said it had 1.9 million less local subscribers compared to December, bringing the total subscribers to 29.2 million in the period under review, as price-sensitive consumers opted for cheaper data offerings.
It has 1.1 million fewer active data subscribers, although postpaid customers increased marginally by 0.1 percent to 5.6 million.
MTN chief executive Rob Shuter said that the 1GB promotion had contributed to the decline.
“We had our famous 1GB promotion, which we decided was not generating value and we pulled it out of the market. A lot of those SIMs have since become dormant and contributed to the drop in prepaid users,” he said.
Shuter said delayed payments under the network roaming agreement with Cell C resulted in a R393-million impairment.
“We are evaluating a sustainable solution to the agreement with Cell C,” Shuter said.
The domestic prepaid service revenue declined 5.5 percent on the introduction of out of data bundle rates and regulations by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
Commenting on the recent release of the policy on high-demand spectrum and policy direction on the licensing of a Wireless Open Access Network, Shuter said it was a move in the right direction, and lacked detail.
“We are still not clear how much spectrum will be available to mobile operators,” said Shuter.
Overall the MTN group had strong subscriber growth of 7.7 million in the first six months of the year to reach a total of 240 million subscribers.
MyBroadband has released an explosive report detailing how billions of rands worth of airtime has been stolen from mobile subscribers in South Africa, by rogue wireless application service providers (WASPs) who bill cellular subscribers’ accounts without their permission.
MyBroadband received this information from two industry insiders, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to the report, subscribers are defenceless as “there is no way to proactively block WASP billing on their accounts”.
How it works
- WASPs are able to bill mobile cellular users’ accounts, taking airtime for content subscription services
- Rogue WASPs exploit the system to bill people’s accounts without their permission or knowledge
- Users’ only defence is to regularly check their account and ask for a refund if their airtime was stolen
- Unless the fraud is detected and a complaint is lodged, the money is gone forever
- Both the rogue WASP and the mobile operator profit
According to MyBroadband, this has been happening for over a decade, and mobile operators are well aware of this problem.
By Chris Forrester for Advanced Television
According to a report in South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper, pay-TV operator DStv is laying off up to 200 staffers in a move to save cash amidst increased competition.
A DStv spokesperson said the move was in order to create a leaner and more agile business. Existing staff are being asked to reapply for their jobs, says the newspaper.
DStv’s parent, MultiChoice has lost some 41,000 Premium top-tier subscribers in the year to March 31st.
MultiChoice has made no secret of its annoyance that rivals such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are eating away at its core subscribers and yet operate without having to fulfil the licensing obligations faced by MultiChoice.
MultiChoice CEO Calvo Mawela has called for a change in regulations to cover the new OTT entrants.
Netflix’s first quarterly report for the 2018 financial year shows that after notching its most subscriber additions in Q4 2017 (8.33 million) it barely slowed down.
Over the last three months, it added another 7.4 million subscribers (1.96 million of them in the US), its second-biggest quarter ever and enough to hit 125 million subscribers on the dot. The ongoing flood of new content certainly helps, including stunts like its Super Bowl Sunday release of The Cloverfield Paradox.
Despite the response from critics Netflix still said: “the event showcased how a big branded film can be marketed and delivered to consumers instantaneously across the globe without a wait for the theatrical window.” Meanwhile, the Spanish series Money Heist became its “most-watched non-English series on Netflix ever.”
While confirming that it will spend between $7.5 and $8 billion this year on content, there isn’t much new to announce. Netflix touched on its expanded agreement with Comcast briefly, and while it didn’t reveal bundle prices it said “We believe that the lower churn in these bundles offsets the lower Netflix ASP.”