After a quarterly earnings report that sent its stock on yet another surge, Hastings set the stage for the company's next big push, being available worldwide by next year, including the 1.4 billion-person Chinese market.
Netflix shares rose by as much as 16 percent on Thursday after the company beat Wall Street forecasts for second-quarter profits by two cents a share and, more importantly, beat forecasts for subscriber additions by almost half. Netflix added 3.3 million customers for its streaming video service to top 65 million total. The company added 1.7 million customers in 2014's second quarter. The new clientele included 900,000 customers in the more-mature U.S. market and bolstered Hastings' long-standing forecast that Netflix can keep adding 5 million to 6 million U.S. clients annually.
"We'll be solidly in that range," Hastings said in a post-earnings interview with RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney and Rich Greenfield of BTIG Research.
Yet stable growth in the U.S. market won't be enough, and Netflix's growth has come at a price.
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While it earned $26.3 million in net income during the quarter, or 6 cents a share, on revenue of $1.64 billion, free cash flow was a negative $229.3 million, pushed down by investment in programming, led by original series productions, such as "Orange Is the New Black" and "Frankie and Grace," which helped drive new-subscription sales. The company said in its letter to shareholders "as our global content spend approaches $5 billion in 2016 on a P&L basis (over $6 billion cash), we will devote more investment to originals both in absolute dollars and percentage."
"Netflix valuation is dependent on growth at any cost, and management is doing exactly what I expected of them," longtime bear Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities said.
The bet on Netflix is one that says the company's investment in content will drive long-term profitability, Mahaney says. And it's a strategy Pachter said will eventually cave in.
"We hope to open the entire rest of the world in 2016," Hastings said after the company announced better-than-expected second-quarter profits yesterday. The company operated in more than 50 nations today. "So [in] China, we still have some things to figure out, so I suppose that's possible. But in the rest of the world, we're pretty confident that we'll open. And then we'll have to see how successful we are in Poland. We have to see how successful we are in Indonesia."