Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) will report its Q4 ’11 earnings later today, but whereas I’ve taken stands in past quarters about subscriber acquisition results, this time around I can only say your guess is as good as mine. Subsequent to last summer’s Qwikster and price increase fiascos, Netflix entered a zone of uncertainty about whether and how its subscriber growth in its critical domestic segment will restart.
On the positive side, strong Q4 consumer spending on digital devices will certainly have a knock-on effect on Netflix’s results. And the recent announcement that its users watched 2 billion hours of streaming content in Q4 gave a hint of the company’s rebound. On the flipside, lingering subscriber anger could have still impacted churn. And competition from Hulu Plus, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) and others in Q4 was certainly more intense than in the past. International will certainly be a contributor to overall subscriber growth, but the concerns there revolve around time to profitability in the varied markets Netflix has entered.
Back in October, in its Q3 report Netflix said its U.S. subscribers would be “slightly up” and international would come in between 1.6M-2.0M. But I suspect Netflix management may have been extra cautious with that forecast given that that last thing it wanted to do was give investors another bad surprise. Whatever this Q4′s results are in the U.S. they won’t approach those of Q4 ’10, when Netflix added just over 3 million subscribers. Still, a sign that Netflix can indeed restart its domestic growth, and demonstrate that international is working, would cheer an awful lot of people who are invested in seeing Netflix succeed.
Will Richmond is president and founder of Broadband Directions LLC, a market intelligence, publishing and consulting firm specializing in broadband-delivered video, which he established in 2003. Will edits and publishes VideoNuze, a daily online publication widely read by broadband video decision-makers.
This article originally appeared in VideoNuze.