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Wall Street analyst says this will be the most important piece of data in Netflix earnings

Wall Street is watching for Netflix to project more American subscribers in 2017 than 2016, said Mark Mahaney, managing director at RBC.

"That's clear evidence the market hasn't matured," Mahaney told CNBC's "Fast Money: Halftime Report" on Wednesday.

Mahaney added: "When the year is all said and done, we think [subscribers] are going to be higher this year than last year, and that's what takes the shares higher."

Reed Hastings, Netflix
Jacopo Raule | Getty Images
Reed Hastings, Netflix

The number of domestic subscribers, international subscribers in the quarter, and guidance for international subscribers will the the key metrics that will make or break Netflix shares after earnings on Wednesday afternoon, Mahaney said.

Analysts are expecting Netflix to add 1.44 million net domestic streaming subscribers and 3.73 million net international streaming subscribers, according to Street Account consensus estimates.

Shares of the streaming service hit an all-time intra-day high of $135.40 a share on Tuesday, ahead of the earnings report. Mahaney said he thinks it's justified to pay $200 for Netflix stock within 2 years.

"Expectations are highest with this name of all the large cap internet names," Mahaney said.

Netflix's post-earnings moves have been notoriously volatile over the last year. In October, the company's earnings beat sent shares up 19 percent in a day, while its July results sent shares falling 15 percent after hours. In April, tepid subscriber forecasts sent shares as much as 12 percent lower, despite better-than-expected earnings.

David Einhorn, the founder of Greenlight Capital, said in his annual letter to shareholders this week that Netflix "has not demonstrated that its huge investment in original content has a positive return."

But Mahaney said he's bullish on Netflix's fundamental prospects as a standalone company, even if the market is "highly skeptical" of the upper end of Netflix's long-term subscriber predictions.

"But just keep in mind, we're going through this seismic shift away from paid TV subscribers to streaming subscribers, and that's why Amazon and other companies are spending so much time on this space," Mahaney said. "Ithink Netflix is far and away the leader in this space."