Streaming giant Netflix has blamed its “wobbly” subscriber growth on a lack of new content due to coronavirus-induced production shutdowns.
Now the streaming service is looking at new ways to get more viewers signed up, including blocking people from sharing passwords.
Netflix saw its subscription numbers soar in 2020 as millions of people went into pandemic lockdown.
Between January and March this year, it added four million more subscribers. That represents a huge comedown from the same per last year when nearly 16 million people created Netflix accounts.
It’s believed plummeting numbers coincided with the end of major lockdowns – suddenly, Netflix and chill wasn’t the only option for a Saturday night.
The performance reported on Tuesday represented the smallest gain in subscribers during that three-month period in four years, and was about two million fewer subscribers than management and analysts had predicted Netflix would add in the first quarter of 2021.
Netflix added a record 37 million subscribers last year, and the four million new customers added this year brought its total subscriber base to 208 million, a year-on-year rise of 14 per cent.
The firm expects the comparatively sluggish subscriber growth to continue, forecasting an increase of just one million worldwide subscribers in the April-June quarter, down from an increase of 10 million subscribers at the same time last year.
“It’s just a little wobbly right now,” Netflix co-chief executive Reed Hastings said during an earnings call on Tuesday.
In a letter to shareholders, Netflix attributed the slowdown in subscriber growth to the coronavirus’s impact on film and TV production.
“We believe paid membership growth slowed due to the big COVID-19 pull forward in 2020 and a lighter content slate in the first half of this year, due to COVID-19 production delays,” the firm said.
As competition in the streaming space intensifies, Netflix has promised to spend more than $22 billion on fresh content this year.
“As we’ve noted previously, the production delays from COVID-19 in 2020 will lead to a 2021 slate that is more heavily second half weighted with a large number of returning franchises,” the firm said.
In Australia, Netflix recently unveiled its forthcoming “docu-soap” about social media influencers in popular beachside town Byron Bay.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing, with locals protesting against the the reality series, which is titled Byron Baes.
Netflix’s password-sharing crackdown
Netflix is also pushing ahead with plans to crack down on password sharing.
One measure that is being trialled is a pop-up box that appears when someone attempts to log in to another person’s Netflix account.
“If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching,” the message reads.
The firm aims to ensure “the people who are using a Netflix account are the ones who are authorised to do so”, chief operating officer Greg Peters said.
However, Mr Hastings took a softer stance, saying that while the firm would “test many things” it would “never roll something out that feels like turning the screws”.
“It’s got to feel like it makes sense to consumers, that they understand,” he said.