Wall St. fears Netflix fatigue as subscriber growth slumps

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FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is pictured on a television remote in this illustration photograph taken in Encinitas, California

(Corrects headline to say subscriber growth slumps, not losses mount)

(Reuters) – Wall Street cast doubt on Wednesday on Netflix Inc’s ability to bounce back strongly from a first-quarter slowdown in subscriber growth that pointed to fatigue among viewers after a year of COVID-19-driven binge streaming.

Several analysts said the streaming giant would need fresh and interesting new content along with a creative approach to pricing going forward as it faces a slew of improving competitors.

The channel had big ratings successes last year with “The Queen’s Gambit” and “The Crown” but production houses are struggling to complete shows worth billions of dollars it has ordered in the hope of extending its dominance of the streaming space.

Meanwhile, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video have all claimed their own ratings successes and are hoping for boosts from their slates such as “Nomadland”, “Promising Young Woman” and “The Father”, which are all vying for Oscars this weekend.

“We are not enthralled with the appeal of the content that Netflix is producing off a high teen billion programming budget,” Benchmark analyst Matthew Harrigan said. “The 2H21 content slate certainly improves from 1H, but we do not think that is especially compelling relative to ‘The Crown’ and ‘Bridgerton’ in 2H20.”

In its quarterly report on Tuesday, Netflix said it had signed up less than 4 million new subscribers globally for the first three months of the year, well below the 6.25 million that analysts expected.

For the second quarter, Netflix expects just 1 million new customers, versus earlier expectations of 4.8 million. Shares of the streaming giant were down 7.5% after the company blamed the pandemic for stalling production and hindering its subscriber growth.

“We believe that hit entertainment content is necessary, but not sufficient, to compete in the streaming wars going forward,” Needham analyst Laura Martin said.

(Reporting by Tanvi Mehta and Aniruddha Ghosh in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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