Strategy

Netflix gains upper hand in streaming wars

The streaming giant reached a record for subscriber growth in Q4.
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· 3 min read

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Looks like the streaming wars have crowned a victor—at least for now.

In its latest earnings report, Netflix said it added 13.1 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter, a significantly bigger jump than the ~8.8 million Wall Street had forecast. It marked the streaming giant’s most significant leap in growth since the start of the pandemic (and heaven knows we were streaming 24/7 back then).

Netflix ended 2023 with 260.8 million subscribers globally. For now, it looks like the company’s efforts to boost subscribers—hello, password crackdown—have continued to pay off.

The company posted $8.8 billion in Q4 revenue, marking a 12% year over year jump. That topped Wall Street expectations, and was up from nearly $7.9 billion the same quarter last year. Netflix credited “the benefits of paid sharing, our recent price changes and the strength of our underlying business driven by a strong slate” for the revenue beat.

Netflix seemed ready for its victory lap, and made it clear that continued efforts to build subscribers were underway. On the same day it reported earnings, the company announced it had acquired exclusive rights to stream WWE Raw live starting next year, in a deal worth more than $5 billion.

“Think of this as 52 weeks of live programming every year,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said on the earnings call. “It feeds our desire to expand our live event programming. This should also add some fuel to our new and growing ad business.”

The bottom line? WWE Raw fighters aren’t the only ones winning battles.

“Netflix has already won the streaming wars, and this type of strong result/guidance, especially relative to its streaming peers, is what winning looks like,” Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak said in a report.

But the streaming wars aren’t over yet, at least in Netflix’s eyes. The company said it expects the industry to “remain highly competitive” in light of “the franchise strength and programming expertise within traditional entertainment companies,” as well as “ongoing heavy investment from large tech players like YouTube, Amazon and Apple.” Netflix also sees social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram as “broader competition for people’s time.” (We won’t tell them we’re normally scrolling while we’re binge watching.)

In any case, Netflix plans to use the competitive landscape as fuel: “It’s why continuing to improve our entertainment offering is so important, and as many of our competitors cut back on their content spend, we continue to invest in our slate,” the company wrote to shareholders.

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.