Netflix earnings: Moderating an open call
On Monday when Netflix reports earnings, investors won't just be curious to see how many subscribers the company added and whether revenues beat or miss expectations.
This quarter they'll be watching to see how a new earnings call format turns out: Netflix is dumping the conference call and webcast model for a video Google hang-out. And instead of having the head of investor relations field questions from analysts, Netflix has invited BTIG's Rich Greenfield, a veteran analyst, and a journalist, me, to moderate questions e-mailed and tweeted to us.
Netflix has experimented with different earnings call models over the past few years. First it eliminated the prepared statements the CEO and CFO usually read, instead issuing a 'Letter to Shareholders' on its website along with the earnings release. In the past it's hosted an analyst Q&A, moderated by the company. Netflix has also had analysts e-mail in questions, which a Netflix facilitator then selected and read to CEO Reed Hastings. That version drew blowback from analysts, frustrated that Netflix was playing favorites and not selecting the tough questions.
Netflix tells me the goal is to open up the investor call from a focus just on Wall Street analysts, to a wider group of investors. The idea seems to be to shake up the format so it isn't stilted, but rather fluid and dynamic, with the potential for follow-ups. That's why the company tells me it's handing the reins over to a veteran analyst and journalist, to solicit questions from a wider range of people, and to use our own judgment in deciding which questions to ask.
We won't get information early. We'll read the earnings results and the 'Letter to Shareholders' as they're released right after the market closes. As soon as investors have had time to digest the results, I expect both Greenfield and I will receive a flood of e-mails with thoughtful questions. We'll cull through them and ask the ones we each find most meaningful, taking turns going back and forth. Perhaps most importantly, we'll be able to ask follow-ups to make sure that Hastings doesn't dodge our questions.
This quarter we saw Yahoo try something new with its earnings call; instead of a webcast of a voice-only conference call, CEO Marissa Mayer turned on a teleprompter and a video camera. She and Yahoo's CFO looked into the camera and addressed investors directly. There seems to be demand to open up the earnings call process, and to make it useful and dynamic.
So why me? I've interviewed Hastings a number of times since I met him back in 2001 when I was a reporter at Fortune Magazine and Netflix was a very different business. I'm the only TV reporter he's conducted an interview with in the past several years. I covered the company's decline after the Qwickster debacle, the stock's recovery, and its recent push into original content. The company tells me it selected me because I know the business well.
I appreciate the opportunity and I look forward to asking the tough questions investors want to hear answered and grilling him about the company's results and future.
Please email me your questions at Julia.Boorstin@nbcuni.com or Tweet me at @JBoorstin.