After the closing bell on Wednesday, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is expected to report fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of 66 cents per share on revenue of $1.17 billion, according to analysts polled by Reuters. The company posted a profit of 13 cents a share on revenue of $945.24 million a year ago.
In October, the movie-streaming service topped Wall Street expectations and issued earnings of $32 million, or 52 cents a share, as revenue grew 22 percent to $1.11 billion for the third quarter. Analysts were forecasting the company to report earnings of 49 cents a share on sales of $1.10 billion for the period ended Sept. 30.
Now investors are looking ahead to Netflix’s fourth-quarter earnings to see how the company is growing its subscriber base, where those subscribers are coming from and how the recent net neutrality law struck down by an appeals court will impact the streaming service going forward in 2014.
“Another thing that gets headlines, but it’s not fundamental to the company [Netflix] yet, they are becoming a content provider in a production studio, but it’s really about subscribers and that’s what happened to them last quarter,” said Keith Bliss, senior vice president and director of sales & marketing at Cuttone & Co., Inc. “They surprised on the upside to subscriber base. The real question for the fourth quarter is going to be that overall subscriber base,” said Bliss. “Are they going to surprise to the upside? Most people think they will, so I wouldn’t necessarily be larring shorts into the stock right here for that upside surprise. It’s probably not a good idea to trade before earnings in that stock anyway on either side of that.”
Netflix has gained from streaming “Breaking Bad” and received critical and popular success from its original series “Orange is the New Black.” In addition, the streaming service won three Emmy Awards along with one Golden Globe for “House of Cards,” and now its original documentary “The Square” about the Egyptian revolution has landed an Oscar nomination.
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The company said in its previous earnings statement for the third quarter that Netflix now has over 40 million members, up from 30 million during the same period a year earlier.
“But then the other question underneath the subscriber base is where the subscriber is coming from,” said Bliss. “Are they getting to a point where they’re starting to get saturated in the U.S. market and they really need to exploit the European and the Asia markets?”
Last week, an appeals court struck down rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2010 that required providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon to treat all Internet content equally. The court announced on Jan. 14 the FCC's "net neutrality" rules were overreaching following a lawsuit brought by Verizon. Now some investors fear Netflix may take a hit and have to pay more to Internet service providers.
“The other thing that I want to hear from Netflix this week though is that a federal judge just struck down the net neutrality law," Bliss added. "So this is going to be a big impact to them if in fact it sticks, meaning that the people who provide the pipes can now either slow down their content or charge them a higher level. There’s no neutrality in that anymore. So that will probably be a big impact to Netflix as the bellwether, but then to other companies like Hulu and anybody else who’s streaming content using somebody else’s pipes. That’s going to be a big story I think in their earnings report.”
On Wednesday, shares of Netflix rose 1.40 percent to $333.32 in afternoon trading ahead of the announcement.