Netflix stock hits all-time high as subscriber growth beats forecasts

Netflix stock hits all-time high as subscriber growth beats forecasts
Netflix, headquartered in Los Gatos, Calif., reported an unexpected jump in subscribers in the first quarter. (AFP/Getty Images)

Netflix Inc. shares touched an all-time high on Thursday as Wall Street celebrated the company's jump in subscribers in the midst of its overseas expansion.

The stock rose $78.43, or 16.5%, to $553.89 in midsession trading a day after Netflix reported first-quarter earnings that beat analysts' projections. Investors were encouraged that the Los Gatos, Calif., company added a net 4.9 million customers from January to March, well above projections.


More than half of the subscriber uptick came from its overseas markets.

About 2.6 million non-U.S. users signed up for Netflix in the quarter, an increase of about 7% from a year earlier and ahead of the forecast of 2.25 million.

Domestic membership also beat projections, with 2.28 million new members versus the expected 1.8 million.

Together, that brought Netflix's total to 62.27 million users worldwide.

But the rise of the value of the U.S. dollar restrained earnings, the company said. Profit fell to $23.6 million, or 38 cents a share, during the quarter, missing the analyst-projected 69 cents a share. All in all, the results have caused some analysts to raise their average price target on the stock to roughly $625.

This year will only continue to be one to watch for the company. Netflix expects to add an additional 2 million subscribers during the second quarter as it continues its expansion into Japan and other markets.

Another point of interest is how growing competition in the digital market might affect Netflix's growth.

HBO, one of Netflix's main competitors, recently launched its stand-alone, over-the-top service, HBO. Though, Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings and Chief Financial Officer David Wells are adamant that the two can thrive concurrently.

As far as other multichannel platforms that are springing up — such as Dish Network Corp.'s Sling TV and Sony Corp.'s Vue — the two Netflix executives view those as more a threat to TV bundles, as Netflix comes at a lower cost and is not focused on live television.

To differentiate itself from the pack and continue to build on its base here and abroad, Netflix has been investing substantially in its original programming. New shows such as the thriller "Bloodline" and the comedy "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" helped bring in new subscribers in the first quarter quarter.

It launched "Marvel's Daredevil" in its current second quarter, and will follow it with the Jane Fonda-Lily Tomlin comedy "Grace and Frankie" and the Wachowski drama "Sense8."

Earlier on Wednesday, the company picked up "Orange Is the New Black" for a fourth season, with a 2016 rollout, and also announced its biggest documentary project: the eight-part series "Our Planet,"expected to debut in 2019.

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