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Netflix tops 200 million global subs

Global streaming giant Netflix added another 8.5 million paid subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2020, bringing its total to 203.66 million and leading it to commit to continue spending big on original content to stay ahead of Disney+.

Reed Hastings

It beat its own forecast for subscriber growth by 2.5 million in the fourth quarter, having added fewer subscribers than predicted in the quarter before, between July and September 2020.

The streamer’s chief financial officer, Spencer Neumann, said it was increasingly hard to project its subscriber growth as a result of the pandemic, after previously warning of a slowdown in subscription rates for 2021.

Netflix had an incredibly successful 2020, with consumption of entertainment skyrocketing as a result of lockdowns around the world. It added a record 37 million paid memberships, achieved US$25bn in annual revenue and grew operating profit 76% to US$4.6bn over the course of the year.

The streamer pointed to an increase in competition from other streaming services in the year ahead, with fellow media giants Disney, WarnerMedia, Discovery, ViacomCBS, NBCUniversal and Apple all making or having made their own streaming plays.

Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings said the performance of Disney+ in particular, with 87 million paid subscribers, was “super impressive,” and Netflix would be increasing its own content budget as a result, while it will be releasing a new movie a week in 2021.

Ted Sarandos

“It’s going to be great for the world that Netflix and Disney will be competing show by show, movie by movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment, with shows like Bridgerton, which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney+ any time soon,” said Hastings.

Netflix co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos added that the popularity of non-English-language content on the platform continues to rise.

Lupin, its French-language heist series released this month, has hit number two in Netflix’s US top 10 list, while the show is ranked number one in countries including Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Vietnam and the Philippines. Netflix projects 70 million member households will choose to watch Lupin in its first 28 days of release.

Elsewhere in Netflix’s fourth-quarter results, it teased an upcoming announcement around raunchy period drama Bridgerton from Shonda Rhimes, which has been a big hit for the streamer.

Meanwhile, Netflix said its productions are now back up and running in most regions following the shutdown in early 2020, and it has over 500 titles currently in post-production or preparing to launch on its service.

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