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Watching Netflix: Revenue is expected to soar

Friday, 19 Jul 2013 | 12:39 PM ET
Netflix Earnings Preview
Friday, 19 Jul 2013 | 12:00 PM ET
CNBC's Julia Boorstin takes a look at Netflix and the company's upcoming earnings report, as well as its Emmy nods for original programming.

When Netflix reports its earnings after the bell Monday on the heels of 14 Emmy nominations for its original shows, the big question will be how the investment in those originals is paying off.

The number in focus: Netflix's subscribers.

In its last earnings report Netflix projected it would add between 230,000 and 880,000 new U.S. streaming video subscribers, and would end the quarter with as many as 30.05 million. That's the number to watch, with investors hoping the company will at very least come in at the top end of projections, if not exceed them.

With shares of the company trading around a 52-week high, and inching back towards 2011's all-time high, the question is whether Netflix will be able to live up to heightened expectations.

(Read More: Netflix makes Emmy history with 14 nods)

Netflix hasn't issued any "ratings" or numbers to show how well its original series have performed, just talking about a "global viewing and a high level of engagement."

Now that four shows have launched, and three of them drew 14 Emmy nominations, the question is whether we'll hear more about the return-on-investment of the push into original content. And does the performance of the content so far change Netflix's strategy to investment in originals or exclusives moving forward?

Wall Street analysts expect Netflix to grow revenue 21 percent to $1.072 billion, while earnings per share are projected to more than triple from 11 cents a year ago, to 40 cents.

The bull argument for Netflix is that all the attention for its originals will mean more subscribers joined the service than expected. Lazard Capital Markets' Barton Crockett wrote, "while management has downplayed the direct sub lift from critically praised 'House of Cards' and 'Orange is the New Black' and fan favorites 'Hemlock Grove' and 'Arrested Development,' we believe they have worked better than expected, pushing sub growth to solid levels vs. guidance, helpful for the stock. Expansion of content from DreamWorks and Disney should make Netflix stronger in coming years with kids and families."

The bear argument against Netflix is that the company won't be able to grow margins because of the high cost of content, which will only continue to go up, and the fact that the company can't really away with a price hike.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter put together a 29-question consumer survey with responses from 1,000 domestic Netflix subscribers. "We believe that the survey showed that a vast majority of Netflix customers are price-sensitive and focused on content quality, implying that churn from any prospective price increase would be high," wrote Pachter. "We remain confident that Netflix is likely to remain either a low-profit, high-growth company or a high-profit low growth company, and its shares remain overvalued."

(Read more: Netflix strikes largest original content deal ever)

Pachter pointed to Netflix's negative cash flow, saying it's a sign of "ever-escalating costs." He warned that the company "will have difficulty turning cash flow positive while continuing to expand its international presence."

International growth is another hot topic for Netflix to address in its upcoming earnings report. Overseas, the question is how quickly the company is adding subscribers, and what that means in terms of stemming international losses as it expands. There's no question that the DVD business is in decline, but we'll see if DVD subscribers are giving up their subscriptions faster or slower than expected.

—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: @JBoorstin

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.