Netflix lowers U.S. subscriber forecast; shares fall

Thu Sep 15, 2011 5:32pm EDT
 

By Yinka Adegoke and Lisa Richwine

(Reuters) - Netflix Inc cut its third-quarter forecast by 1 million U.S. subscribers, sending its shares down nearly 19 percent, as the company known for rapid growth expects more fallout from a price increase on its DVD service.

On Thursday, Netflix said it would have 24 million subscribers at the end of the third quarter, down from a prior forecast of about 25 million given soon after the July announcement of the price increase.

The decision by Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings to raise rates for customers who still want DVDs by mail took effect earlier this month.

Fewer customers than expected are opting to take Netflix's DVD-only subscription package. Netflix now expects to have 2.2 million such subscribers, down from the previous forecast of 3 million. The company also cut its forecast for streaming-only subscribers, to 21.8 million from 22 million.

Lazard Capital analyst Barton Crockett expressed concern that the changes might also hurt Netflix's fourth quarter.

"Clearly, if the third quarter is slipping, there's risk to the fourth quarter, as the year-ago period was a time when everything went right for Netflix," he said in a research note.

Crockett called the price increase a "rare, large and surprising misstep" by Hastings.

The decision to increase the monthly subscription for a joint streaming and DVD rental service by as much as 60 percent caused an uproar among customers and bloggers. For U.S. customers, the price for renting one DVD at a time plus unlimited streaming increased from about $10 a month to about $16 per month.   Continued...