SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix’s video streaming service suffered the first loss in worldwide subscribers in its history, leading to a massive sell-off of its shares. The company’s customer base fell by 200,000 subscribers during the January-March period, according to a quarterly report released Tuesday; its stock dropped by 23% in after-market trading.
The subscription figure was far worse than company management’s forecast for a conservative gain of 2.5 million subscribers. The news deepens troubles at the streaming service that have been mounting since a surge of signups from a captive audience during the pandemic began to slow.
It marks the first time Netflix’s worldwide subscribers have contracted, although the service previously saw a decline in U.S. subscribers in 2019. Now Netflix is bracing for things to get even worse with a projected loss of another 2 million subscribers during the April-June period.
The disappointing performance caused Netflix’s stock price to plunge 23% in extended trading. Investors had already been bailing out of the company’s once high-flying stock amid a dramatic slowdown in subscriber growth. If the shares behave similarly in Wednesday’s regular trading session, Netflix’s stock will have lost more than its value so far this year.
It marks the fourth time in the last five quarters that Netflix’s subscriber growth has fallen below the gains of the previous year, raising investor fears that its streaming service is mired in a malaise that has been magnified by stiffening competition from well-funded rivals such as Apple and Walt Disney.