Netflix confirmed in its fourth-quarter 2021 earnings report that the boom in streaming competition over the past two years is having an impact on the platform’s growth.
“Consumers have always had many choices when it comes to their entertainment time — competition that has only intensified over the last 24 months as entertainment companies all around the world develop their own streaming offering,” Netflix said in its Q4 earnings shareholder letter Thursday. “While this added competition may be affecting our marginal growth some, we continue to grow in every country and region in which these new streaming alternatives have launched.”
New rivals to Netflix in the subscription streaming market over the past two years have included Disney Plus, WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, NBCUniversal’s Peacock and ViacomCBS’s rebranded Paramount Plus.
Netflix shares fell more than 18% in after-hours trading, as the company forecast 2.5 million net subscriber adds for the first quarter of 2022. For Q1, Wall Street analysts had been projecting a gain of 7.25 million subscribers, per FactSet. Netflix reported a net gain of 8.28 million subscribers for Q4, again driven by markets outside North America, to reach 221.8 million total worldwide. The streamer previously forecast 8.5 million paid net adds while Wall Street analysts expected 8.3 million, according to FactSet.
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The company also revealed in its earnings report a higher rate of cash burn for the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2021, due to increased content spending.
Per Netflix, “Net cash generated by operating activities in Q4 was -$403 million vs. -$138 million in the prior year period. Free cash flow (FCF) for the quarter was -$569 million vs. -$284 million in Q4‘20. For the full year 2021, FCF amounted to -$159 million, in-line with our expectation for ‘approximately break-even.’”
Netflix reported an operating margin for Q4 of 8.2%, down from 23.5% in the previous quarter and 14.4% in Q4 2020. The streaming service attributed the decline to high content spending in the final quarter of the year.
Among Netflix’s most popular titles for Q4 were the films “Red Notice” and “Don’t Look Up” and new seasons of TV series “You” (pictured above) and “The Witcher.”