The first blood of the streaming wars was shed in Netflix red. Last quarter, the company reported a miss on international growth projections (2.8m vs 4.8m net new subscribers) and announced the loss of 126,000 paying US subscribers – a first for the streaming pioneer. In their 3Q19 earnings call later today, we expect eyes to be fixated on screens when we get another commercial-free report from the company at 6:00 PM EDT.
We took a look at Netflix with the Amenity NLP toolkit to paint an objective picture of the company’s storyboard and found a drop off in positivity around key financial commentary and elevated deception – perhaps the makings of a blockbuster drama, if only there was a Netflix-enabled TV remote in reach!
Management blamed lacking performance on subscriber sensitivity to price hikes, a lack of compelling content in the pipeline, and the frontloading effect of having outperformed earlier in the year. Sample extractions detected in the 2Q19 call illustrate the point:
Netflix’s Amenity Score, which we calculate as a representation of the overall sentiment in an earnings call related to a company’s fundamentals, unsurprisingly tanked (see Figure 1). Netflix shares sank 11% immediately after the 2Q19 earnings call and currently trade about 20% below the pre-earnings close. Should the miss and loss have been a surprise? Is there cause for further concern going into the 3Q19 earnings call? Amenity’s NLP models help to distill and contextualize Netflix’s strategic outlook. (Spoiler alert: we saw this coming… #foreshadowing?)
Looking back at extractions that Amenity’s models captured in Netflix’s 1Q19 earnings call, we observe Eric Sheridan of UBS asking CFO Spencer Neumann a question that perfectly encapsulates the issues that materialized the following quarter. Neumann’s answer included three detected extractions, two of which we classified as deceptive. Snippets from the exchange are provided below:
Hindsight is 20/20, so we know where those particular chips landed… Rewinding the tape further, we find additional evidence to substantiate concern about Netflix’s decision to raise prices in the 4Q18 earnings call. Sample extractions below illustrate the point:
Whether these were adequately loud warning calls of the consequences of a pricing shift, we take comfort in knowing that our models successfully identified these extractions as significant for the fundamentals of the business. Coming back from our trip down memory lane, we look forward to today’s earnings call so that Netflix can address the concerns of analysts and investors alike.
Last quarter, management spent noticeably little time crediting the increasingly competitive streaming landscape for its performance woes. We imagine this may come up today given the range of taggers on that have put major resources into their streaming products. It looks like lots of folks are coming for Netflix’s lunch. Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Disney+ (targeting an always-growing-up audience), NBCUniversal (whose Peacock service scooped up rights to The Office from Netflix), and HBO Max (which is, ironically, poaching Friends from Netflix) are all poised to take share as their offerings come to market. We’ll be lasered in on how Netflix responds to tough questions about the competitive threats and get back to you with our analysis.
Management’s stated solution to the competitive threat has been to double down on content investments while swatting away rumors of pivoting away from a single stream revenue model. Netflix continues to say it will never run advertisements, but we are left to wonder... How can we consider buckets of KFC strategically located inbounds of our Stranger Things episodes as anything but advertisements?
If you own Netflix shares and have yet to tune in for an earnings call, you are not alone. We were surprised to learn that Netflix doesn’t actually have conference calls. Instead, the company hosts an “earnings interview” in which one of about 40 analysts that cover the company gets to ask questions of key executives. While the last interview was conducted by Michael Morris of Guggenheim, we find it curious that Eric Sheridan of UBS was the analyst invited to participate for the previous three calls in a row. (The irony is not lost on us that Netflix, the streaming giant, hosts its earnings call videos on YouTube…)
What exactly do the thirty-something other analysts do with themselves in the meantime? We suggest heading to Netflix for an episode of Friends before they disappear. #TheOneWhenNetflixReportsEarnings
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Amenity Analytics is the industry leader in providing insights from unstructured text by using Natural Language Processing (NLP) assisted by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). Amenity’s NLP system is a sector-agnostic, language-dependent tool for quantitative text analysis that is deployed across the financial services industry and beyond.
This communication does not represent investment advice. Transcript text provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.
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