“This financial report is still limited and in line with Netflix’s usual style, but there are only a few words, or some cracks can be seen. These cracks hide some “either left or right” possibility.”
Netflix previously released its second quarter financial report for fiscal 2021. On the whole, the growth of Netflix’s paying subscribers has slowed down, and it has not met profit expectations. Netflix’s stock price fell more than 6% the next day after the release of the financial report, showing the market’s sentiment towards Netflix’s latest financial report. However, due to “House of Paper Money”, “Sex Education” and other content expected by drama fans will be released in the second half and next year, which makes some investment institutions remain optimistic about Netflix’s performance in the next quarter.
Among the supporting factors for optimism is Netflix’s response to “enter the video game field” during the conference call.
In the conference call following the release of the Q2 earnings report, Netflix COO and Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said, “Netflix will produce games based on its original TV shows and movies, and will also authorize externally. The games will be included in the member’s In the monthly subscription price, there is no additional charge.” But he also emphasized, “Games are just a new content category. It does not mean that it will become an independent element in Netflix. The focus is to make the core streaming service better.” At present, it is not clear when the relevant game will be released.
Netflix executives also expressed their attitude towards industry integration on the earnings call.
Since last year, competition in the streaming media field has become increasingly fierce. The subscribers of Disney+ and Comcast Peacock have grown rapidly. In particular, Disney+, which was established only one year ago, has exceeded 100 million subscribers in the first quarter. Under such a situation, the integration of Hollywood’s media landscape has further intensified. In May, AT&T announced the spin-off of Warner Media and will merge with Discovery, and then Amazon announced the acquisition of MGM for nearly $8.5 billion. Netflix believes that these integrations have not had much impact on its growth, and the biggest competitor is “Netflix itself.”
On the one hand, it emphasizes that the biggest competitor is “Netflix itself”, but in the shareholder’s open letter released in the second quarter earnings report, Netflix mentioned TikTok for the first time and regarded it as a competitor that needs to be taken seriously along with YouTube and Epic Games .
“In the competition to provide entertainment to consumers around the world, we continue to compete with companies such as YouTube, Epic Games, and TikTok for screen time. However, we mainly compete with ourselves to improve our services as soon as possible. If we can do it In this regard, we are confident that we can maintain our strong position and continue to maintain good growth as we have done over the past two years.”
This contradictory expression is actually Netflix’s repeated use of two layers of logic.
One is the content logic. For a long time, Netflix has expressed to the outside world that it still has confidence in its own growth logic. A big logic is that compared with the traditional market structure, Netflix feels that the proportion of streaming media is still low.
It is true that from the data level that Netflix insists on the proportion of streaming media, the market changes are slow, or even stalemate, but the offensive such as short videos or other new forms of entertainment has not stopped, and the speed is faster than expected. And this touches on another logic that Netflix previously emphasized externally, that is, the time logic, that is, streaming media is, in the final analysis, a competition for user time.
During the period when Netflix’s stock price was soaring, these two sets of logic appeared together, because at that time the performance of other forms of entertainment, such as short videos, was not so obvious. The entire Wall Street view of content was once tilted towards the concept of streaming media. superior.
But now, it can be found that the two sets of logic have been separated in Netflix itself, and it is unable to face the competition stage, self-consistent and integrated in its model.
Combined with Dongxi Entertainment’s continuous tracking of Netflix’s financial report content in the past two years, Netflix has basically not changed its expression of its own growth logic, and its cautious wording of games may also have the purpose of stabilizing its market confidence. After all, according to Netflix’s current expression, games are actually part of its content system, which also means that for a long time, games are still an accessory.
The game is obviously not the end of the content, and the content investment of Time War has not yet seen the end.
User growth is lower than expected, content reserves continue
As of the end of the second quarter, Netflix’s global paid streaming media subscribers reached 209 million, an increase of 8.4% year-on-year, the lowest growth rate in the past 14 quarters; the net increase of paid subscribers was 1.54 million, exceeding Netflix’s expected 1 million, of which Asia Pacific Regions accounted for two-thirds of the net growth in paying users this quarter, and the current revenue contribution from the Asia-Pacific region is relatively low.
According to financial report data, in the second quarter, the ARPU of subscribers in North America reached US$14.54, membership revenue was US$3.235 billion, accounting for 44% of total revenue, ARPU in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa was US$11.66, and membership revenue was US$2.4 billion, accounting for the total revenue. 33%, the ARPU of Latin America was US$7.50, and membership revenue was US$861 million, accounting for 12% of total revenue; the ARPU of the Asia-Pacific region was US$9.74, and membership revenue was US$799 million, accounting for 11% of total revenue.
It can be seen that the North American market is still the main position of Netflix subscribers, accounting for 44% of the total number of subscribers. At the same time, the North American market has the highest ARPU value and contributes the most important subscription member income. However, the North American market lost momentum in the growth of subscribers, losing 430,000 users in its most profitable US and Canada, and the number of paying users in North America dropped to 73.95 million.
From a global perspective, new subscribers in the second quarter mainly came from Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region. There were 760,000 to 38.66 million subscribers in Latin America, and 1.02 to 27.88 million subscribers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Netflix stated in an open letter to shareholders that part of the slowdown in subscriber growth in recent quarters was due to the acceleration of growth last year. The company said: “The new crown pneumonia has caused some instability in our membership growth (higher growth in 2020, slower growth this year), and it is currently being gradually resolved.” Netflix also pointed out that it was “unprecedented” during the epidemic last year. Compared with the level, the participation of each member family has declined.
In terms of performance outlook, Netflix expects to add approximately 3.5 million new users in the third quarter, which is lower than the approximately 5.5 million expected by investors.
Regarding content reserves, Netflix stated in an open letter to shareholders that the production delays related to the new crown pneumonia in 2020 will lead to a reduction in production plans in the first half of 2021, which will continue for the entire year, “but despite this, it will still be in the first half of 2021. An exciting portfolio of works was launched in the second quarter”.
For example, the fantasy series “Call of the Sun” based on the popular Grishaverse series of novels had more than 55 million family members opted to watch it in 28 days of its premiere, and Netflix has now renewed its second season. “Sweet Tooth”, based on DC Comics, is another hit drama that 60 million family members chose to watch four weeks before it was released.
Netflix’s expansion into non-fiction series is progressing well. In the past quarter, the second season of the dating show “Can’t Stop”, the social experimental reality show “Circle”, and the real crime documentary “Son of Sam” performed well. Netflix said that they are launching local versions of the same format to create some unscripted programs. For example, “Can’t Stop: Brazil” and “Can’t Stop: Latino” will be launched in late July and September respectively to serve Latin America.
Live-action movies and original animated movies are also growing rapidly. Netflix launched several influential works in the second quarter. “Dead Legion” sold out in the first 28 days of its release, as an extension of “Legion of the Living Dead”, prequel “Army of Thieves” will be released in the fourth quarter of 2021, and a spin-off animation series will be released later in 2022. The second quarter also launched Netflix’s largest animated film so far, “Smart Counterattack.”
Netflix’s investment in non-English content is growing in scope and impact. The second part of “Ghost Lupin” from France is Netflix’s largest non-English program this season, the fourth season of “Elite” from Spain and “Who Killed Sara?” “The second season also attracted a large audience.
“The new crown virus and its mutations make it difficult to predict the future, but in view of the fact that the production work has basically gone smoothly so far, we are optimistic about the strong performance in the second half of the year.” Netflix said.
According to reports, the program list for the third quarter will include fans’ favorite new seasons of “House of Banknotes”, “Sex Education”, “Vitchn River” and “I Want to Do It Once”, as well as live-action movies, including “Sweet Girl”. “, “Kissing Booth 3”, “Kate” and the cartoon “Vivo”, Netflix has placed expectations on these episodes to attract users in the next quarter. “We hope that by the end of the year there will be a greater acceleration, because we have really entered the core of the strong release plan and the seasonal peak.”
Games will not become an independent element of Netflix, mobile games may face doubts
Just recently, Netflix hired former EA and Facebook game director Mike Verdu to oversee the development of its new game. This move shows that Netflix plans to enter the field of video games.
In the quarterly earnings report, Netflix further elaborated on its ambitions to enter the game field. Netflix plans to make games based on its original TV shows and movies, and at the same time, it will also authorize the games. The games will be included in the member’s monthly subscription service at no additional cost.
At the same time, Netflix also said that the company has not deviated from the model of its TV series and movies. The fact that the game is a “new content category” does not mean that it will become an independent element in Netflix. Hastings mentioned that Netflix is a single product company with many supporting elements.
Netflix’s open letter to shareholders stated, “We are as always excited about our movie and TV series products. We expect that investment and growth in all existing content categories will have a long way to go, but since we’re close to entering original shows In ten years, we think it’s time to learn more about how our members rate the game.”
Netflix said the initial stage will focus on mobile games. It should be pointed out that although Netflix is known as the king of streaming media, it does not occupy a dominant position in the field of mobile devices. Netflix’s choice of mobile terminal as the starting point for the game field also shows that it is exploring new ways to present content outside the TV screen.
“We believe that mobile phones are a good gaming platform,” Netflix product director Greg Peters said on the company’s earnings call. “Obviously, it is very mature, with excellent support technology, excellent tools, and excellent developers. Community. The vast majority of our members have mobile phones that provide an excellent gaming experience.”
Compared with competitors such as Google , Apple and Microsoft , Netflix will rely on its popular IP for mobile games.
Netflix is home to popular IPs such as “Bridgetown”, “Stranger Things” and “Queen’s Game”. “We have created a lot of IP. Fans of these stories want to participate more deeply. The advantage of interaction is that you can provide a world where people can participate and explore, and they can also provide some intentionality.” Greg Peters on the phone Mentioned in the meeting.
In addition, he also said that although the game may rely on Netflix’s series IP, they are also open to original concepts. And in terms of the business model, games, movies, and TV are similarly placed in Netflix’s membership subscription service. “We don’t need to consider advertising, in-game purchases or other profits. Just like movies and series, we focus on providing the most interesting Game experience.”
However, some voices pointed out that games are expensive and complicated, which is also a risk for Netflix.
Some analysts believe that this effort is “at best a distraction”, while another analyst said that there are too many cases of failure to get involved in mobile games, and Disney is the most prominent failure. Even video game publishers like Activision, EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft, and Nintendo have tried to create compelling mobile content over the years, but each has achieved lasting success through acquisitions.
Excerpt from the call
Reed Hastings, Co-CEO of Netflix
Ted Sarandos, Netflix Co-CEO and Chief Content Officer
Greg Peters, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Product Officer, Netflix
Spencer Wang, Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Development, Netflix
Spencer Neumann, CFO of Netflix
Regarding the game: starting from IP, it will become the core part of Netflix’s subscription service
Q: In the last earnings conference call, Reed, you mentioned that video streaming is the main profit pool, and there may be other smaller profit pools in the future. Among adjacent business areas such as games, podcasts, online stores, and live entertainment, which ones are likely to become a meaningful profit pool in the future?
Reed Hastings: They are not designed to be like this. I want to make two differences. In our service, there are things that our consumers like, so we are very confident about the future work of Shonda Rhimes (Netflix has reached a cooperation with live entertainment); we are advancing video games, which will be our service Part; all of these are not deliberately designed. It can be considered that this is a core service model, which is enhancing the large-scale services we have. Then, there are many supporting elements, consumer products, and various shopping. We are working hard to develop these elements so that Netflix’s service becomes a must.
They are not profit pools of any material scale, but they are helping us. The reason for this is to help the development of subscription services and make them more important in people’s lives. We are a single product company with many supporting elements that help the product bring satisfaction to consumers and provide investors with a monetization engine.
Q: How will you achieve the most important content for players, whether it is excellent content, ease of play, or player network? Why are people excited about playing games on Netflix?
Greg Peters: Just as we continue to expand the nature of our product by adding new genres, no scripts, movies, local language programs, animations, etc., we think we have the opportunity to add games to the product and provide users with more entertainment value. We will start small and continue to learn and improve.
The first is about the IP we created. Fans of these stories want to participate more deeply. The advantage of interaction is that, first of all, you can provide a world where people can participate and explore. They can also provide some intentionality, where they want to explore, what role, which part of the world, and which part of the timeline.
Our subscription model can help us focus on game experiences that are currently not covered by mainstream profit models. We don’t need to think about advertising, in-game purchases, or other profitability. We can focus on providing the most interesting gaming experience just like movies and series.
Q: What is the long-term view of the game? Starting from the mobile terminal, this is a vertical content strategy. Is this a starting point or an end? Over time, do you see yourself as a platform? Have you noticed that players are playing games on TV? What long-term proposition might this develop into?
Greg Peters: I will first look at it from a platform perspective. We believe that mobile devices are a good gaming platform. It is very mature and has excellent support technologies, tools and developer communities. The vast majority of members have the ability to provide excellent Mobile phone with gaming experience. Therefore, providing these experiences will be our main focus.
In the end, we will see that the devices we currently serve can all be candidates for a certain gaming experience. In fact, we have been providing a lighter interactive experience on TVs and TV-connected devices for some time. You can call it an interactive experience, and we will continue to innovate in this field.
Expanding our IP games will be part of our long-term research, and we will also try some independent games. Perhaps one day, we will see games derive from movies or series, which will be an amazing place and really see the rich interaction between these different forms of entertainment.
We also use authorization because we have done similar things in other types of extensions. This is a good way to increase the number of products we have. In the beginning, we can learn faster. With the scale of our internal production, we can focus on what we are learning.
Q: I whether they should be seen as a game in order to obtain higher ARPU value?
Greg Peters: I will not guess about it for a long time. However, we do make it a core part of the subscription service. Attract members, get them to participate and talk about it, and make it part of the social dialogue. We see the benefits of retention rates, which are more valuable than members staying with us longer. We also see these values in user acquisition, because if there is a great game, many people will talk about it to friends, colleagues, and family, then this is also our source of user acquisition.
About sports: focusing on its synergy will also be an important part of Netflix
Q: Will Netflix become an important destination for sports-related content?
Ted Sarandos: “Drive to Survive” has greatly expanded the audience of Formula One, including live ticket sales, TV ratings and merchandise sales. I think it can be applied as long as the storyline is good. So, the advantage of this for us is that we can apply the same excellent creativity to the stories behind the sports, the personalities behind the sports, and the drama that takes place outside the camera. We will continue to explore it. This week we have a documentary about Naomi Osaka , which can really expand the fan base in the tennis world, especially during this exciting Olympic period.
Q: In addition to large-scale American football and basketball, we have seen a lot of cost increases. Are there more niche sports or sports in the international market? Is it possible to have a good return on investment if you have the right to live broadcast?
Ted Sarandos: What is the best use of $10 billion? I think this is the cost of making a meaningful investment in major league sports . Since I started to say that, prices have been rising. Therefore, I think this is very likely to be established. Don’t think that other sports are niche, they just haven’t been allocated yet, and we can bring a lot of things to them. Our basic products are customized on-demand without advertising, while sports are often broadcast live and full of advertisements. So, apart from what happens on TV, there are not many such natural synergies. Therefore, when it becomes the best use for the next investment, we will definitely accept it.
Q: Are there any advantages to Amazon’s approach to sports?
Ted Sarandos: As an observer, I know what they are doing, but I am not sure what they are looking for in their content consumption that is the same as ours.
Regarding mergers and acquisitions: the primary development of core business
Q: While free cash flow will grow in the next few years, what are the reasons for keeping debt-total debt within the range of US$10 billion to US$15 billion?
Spence Neumann: Because we want to maintain a certain degree of leverage in the market, because we want to be familiar with the capital market, and over time, we need to obtain capital. As far as our capital allocation strategy is concerned, the most important thing for us is to make strategic investments in the business. As we have excess cash, we will return it to shareholders from time to time. This is why we launched the stock repurchase program. The amount of our repurchase every quarter is not fixed. We have 5 billion share repurchase authorization. We will maintain some debt in the capital market, but we have deleveraged significantly.
Q: Your interest in mergers and acquisitions has always been low. I want to know if this situation will change when you explore games or other areas? In your core business, you seem to be less interested in some traditional assets in the market, such as MGM. What are the characteristics of a good acquisition?
Spence Neumann: We are open to content assets that can help us accelerate growth, such as intellectual property rights that we can develop into original dramas and movies.
Having said that, we noticed a few things. First of all, our burden. For example, if some of these content assets are heavily burdened and restrict our ability to use them on Netflix, then their value to us will be limited, because our primary task is to develop Netflix’s core business.
Second, our opportunity costs and trade-offs. Therefore, when evaluating mergers and acquisitions, we always consider if we buy X company or asset X with Y dollars, what other uses of Y dollars are and which is most beneficial to the company.
For industry competition: Netflix cares more about content and membership services
Q: How does the current competition and integration of the industry affect Netflix’s thinking about the global long-term pricing power?
Greg Peters: Our main concern is how to provide more value, how to provide more high-quality and diversified content to attract more and more consumers in the world. If we do well in this area, then in the end, we have the ability to go back and occasionally ask some members to pay more to maintain a virtuous circle.
Ted Sarandos: These integrated companies are all players we have been competing with from the beginning, but different channels. I don’t think this will change the content of the product. The size of the Netflix distribution platform and our ability to connect creators with a large number of users have helped a lot in loading content on our platform.
Reed Hastings: Disney’s acquisition of Fox has helped Disney become a broader entertainment service company, not just for a child and family. Time Warner, Discovery Channel, as if to work, and there will be some help, but not as important as Disney-Fox. For the remaining three, how they are combined or not combined or cooperated, we still do not know. We only focus on content selection and dialogue, and how to improve services for our members. The competition from Instagram, TikTok, sports, Olympics and other aspects is very fierce. According to Nielsen ‘s data, the United States still has a lot of room for growth without competing with other streaming media.
Q: What is the biggest debate on Netflix’s strategy?
Reed Hastings: Compared to the competition, I am a little cautious in this regard, because most of them are talking about how we will get rid of Fox-Disney and provide amazing entertainment. We have been talking about video games for several years and have written down the pros and cons of entering the game market. It has some attributes, such as movies, you can have an ID, and you can have these long-term authorizations. If we can master the skills, it will be very beneficial to us and the industry structure. Therefore, this requires us to think that the incremental funds used to fund games are meaningful compared to our investment in other content. This is the process we have to go through.
Regarding post-epidemic growth potential and financial returns: The growth trajectory is clear, and streaming media is still in its early stages
Q: As we enter 2022, what are your views on the ability to return to the net increase level before the epidemic?
Spence Neumann: The long-term trend of our business growth model is very consistent and stable. Therefore, if we achieve our expectations, it means that we will add 54 million new members in the past two years, or an average of 27 million per year, which is exactly the same as our growth in 2018 and 2019 in the past few years. Therefore, we are still on the growth track.
Once we enter the fourth quarter, what we can expect is that as we smoothly pass the turbulent period of COVID-19, we will enter a seasonal peak period. We expect that the growth trajectory at the end of this year will become more normalized. We must do this.
Reed Hastings: Long-term risks can be broken down into two parts. One is, will streaming slow down? This seems unlikely. Internet streaming has always been amazingly stable and productive. When you have a new competitor, you will be recognized and there are more reasons to buy smart TV or broadband. Therefore, at least in the next few years, the overall growth of streaming media is very complete.
We believe that streaming media is a growth story, and competition with linear TV will happen until the ratings of streaming media reach 50%, 60%, 70%, and then there will be a shuffle. We must be prepared to lead all this. However, in the next few years, streaming media is still in its early stages.
Q: What makes Netflix’s core business a great investment for shareholders in the next five years? What kind of growth, free cash flow capital return algorithm excites you?
Reed Hastings: The big picture that all investors get is as a long-term Internet game. Just like Amazon’s strong performance in 2005 and 2008, all of us underestimated the impact of the Internet. This is the application of the Internet to entertainment. And consumer entertainment is a huge market all over the world. It has great potential for us and our potential competitors. Therefore, this big proposition once again excites people.
When our revenue increased by 19%, it was not difficult for the profit margin to increase by 300 basis points. As revenue growth slows, this will become more difficult, but we will continue to rely on it. Fundamentally speaking, this is a story of long-term revenue growth. The management team is committed to increasing profits and cash flow, and then returning these cash flows through buybacks.
Spence Neumann: Almost every market in the world is still in its infancy. If you look at it as a whole, the penetration rate of broadband households is about 20%. We mentioned in the last call that there are 800 to 900 million household broadband or pay TVs worldwide outside of China. As we continue to improve our services and the accessibility of services, over time, I believe we can enter all or most of the homes.
In the Asia-Pacific region, we only have a penetration rate of about 10%. In the US and Canada, according to Nielsen’s viewing consumption data, it is only about 26%. In streaming media, we only account for 7% of the total TV share. Therefore, we only account for 7% of 26%. Therefore, in terms of the overall trend from linear entertainment to streaming entertainment, this is a huge driving force.
This played a role in finance. In the past five years, our profit margin has increased by 5 times, our absolute profit has increased by 20 times, and the business has expanded from a quarterly operating income of US$100 million to US$2 billion. Therefore, we think it will continue to maintain a healthy scale because our business scale is very good. It creates content in this market with huge profit pools. Therefore, we have a long-term runway of growth, profitability and return to shareholder value.
Q: I think there are many questions in the market. How long can you maintain double-digit revenue growth without these low ARPU markets? In this quarter, two-thirds of your net increase came from the Asia-Pacific region. Can you talk about this question?
Greg Peters: We are trying to figure out how to find such a wide range of prices to meet the functional and consumer needs of a richer market. At the same time, we are also considering the kind of people you are talking about, and make sure that we increase the accessibility of services and the ability to truly participate, and get happiness from the stories we tell. More and more people in the world do not have enough capacity to pay. .
The trick is to find the right feature set product so that we can expand this range without affecting other levels. We really adopted this iterative approach. We tried different solutions to measure the net income based on this.
When we introduce lower-priced plan products to reduce the average income of each member, we are also considering expanding the funnel to achieve total net positive income. We saw this in the mobile plans launched in 78 countries this quarter, and this is an example of our attempt to make incremental progress and expand coverage against this problem.
Q: For traditional TV networks, the most profitable network has 40% EBIT. They do not have the scale and direct-to-consumer business model like yours. Comparing the current long-term profit margin potential of Netflix with the historical profit of more than 40% we have seen, is there any comparison?
Spence Neumann: I will never provide 40% long-term guidance. We want to make the business have a scalable model. Therefore, the most important thing for us is healthy growth, actively and strategically investing in our business growth while increasing our profits. So far, we have been doing very well and will continue to keep moving forward.
Therefore, so far, we have been growing at a rate of 3 % per year for any period of several years . As Reed said, this is reasonable, and we can also achieve an annual revenue growth of about 20%. But now, obviously, in terms of 3 percentage points per year, this cannot last forever. We have a long growth track.
In terms of the global nature of our platform, we have some advantages, the ability to create stories anywhere, and they can spread well not only in their markets, but in countries and markets around the world. Therefore, this is a good model for us. We have a revenue model and subscription, which can also be well extended to mature, larger, smaller and emerging markets, which to a certain extent depends on the development of the business, the competitive situation, and the relative cost of content Of course, these things have an impact on profit margins, but we have a lot of healthy growth ahead of us.
Q: The company’s annual profit margin of 300 basis points has brought great constraints to the company, and may slightly control Ted’s content budget. But why is this a correct forward rhythm? I know what the average level is, but looking back over the five years, the average level is lower than this number. Is that because you have discovered new companies to invest in or competitiveness or other reasons?
Reed Hastings: I think there is nothing magical about 300 basis points. If our decision were 200 or 400, we would be slightly different today. But I think we can reach the same place in the long run. Therefore, this is a guess, and a framework has been established in considering how to allocate to faster growth and provide investors with a profit stream.
The more we do, the more we learn. Therefore, we are making progress on a program-by-program basis, and understanding how to really drive consumer satisfaction on a film-by-film basis. This is what you will see next year and beyond.
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