Netflix spooks Street with sputtering user growth

Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:41pm EDT
 
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By Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) - Netflix Inc projected slower subscriber growth for its key U.S. video-streaming service, disappointing investors and sending its shares down 17 percent.

While Netflix reported a first-quarter loss that was not as steep as Wall Street projected, it warned that domestic streaming additions in the second quarter would be below that seen during the same period in 2010.

The stock plunged 17 percent to $84.85 in after-hours trading, down from a close at $101.84 on Nasdaq.

Despite predicting total U.S. streaming-subscriber additions in 2012 would be "about the same as in 2010," the nearer-term guidance rattled investors, said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter.

Adding customers to the instant-streaming business is key to the company's future as it moves away from mailing DVDs in its signature red envelopes.

"They are giving a signal to the Street their growth story is over," said Pachter, who rates Netflix a "sell."

LOST CREDIBILITY

Netflix never fully recovered credibility with investors after a price-hike and plan to hive off its DVD business -- quickly abandoned -- sparked cancellations by angry customers last year.   Continued...

 
A sign is shown at the headquarters of Netflix in Los Gatos, California September 20, 2011. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith