Netflix experienced a massive deceleration in growth in the first quarter, adding just 4 million new subscribers worldwide — 2 million fewer than the company had previously forecasted. Netflix ended the most recent quarter with a total of 207.6 million subscribers.
Executives blamed the miss on COVID, writing in their letter to investors that last year's lockdown-fueled subscriber growth led to a "pull forward" effect. They also argued that production shutdowns resulted in a lighter content slate in the beginning of the year, but suggested that this would even out in the second half of 2021. Altogether, Netflix aims to spend $17 billion on content this year.
Netflix executives went out of their way to argue that the slowing growth wasn't the result of increased competition from streaming services like Disney+ and HBO Max, and implored investors to take a closer look at the competition. "When comparing services, subscriber figures alone tell only part of the story [given bundles, discounts and other promotions] so it's important to also focus on engagement and revenue as key indicators of success," they wrote.
However, Netflix investors weren't buying that narrative Tuesday afternoon; the company's stock price sank 10% in after-hours trading.