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Netflix nears 150 million subscribers

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Dystopian movie Bird Box helped Netflix Inc draw a record 8.8 million new paid streaming customers during the last three months of 2018.

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The streaming service finished the year with 139 million paying members, up 29 million from the beginning of the year.

The world’s largest streaming service is within striking distance of 150 million global subscribers. It expects to gain another 8.9 million subscribers this quarter, to reach 148 million.

But the company fell slightly short of Wall Street’s revenue estimates and shares tumbled 3 per cent late on Thursday.

Netflix reported revenue of $US4.19 billion for the quarter that ended in December, slightly below the $US4.21 billion that Wall Street analysts had forecast, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The company reported earnings of 30 cents per share for the quarter, lower than a year earlier due to higher spending, but above Wall Street analysts’ average estimate of 24 cents, according to Refinitiv.

Investors have come to expect fast-growing Netflix to handily beat forecasts. Without a blowout quarter, shares fell 3 per cent in after-hours trading to $US342.59.

The company has staked its future on global expansion and creating original TV shows and movies to hook new customers and keep them paying monthly subscription fees as current TV and movie suppliers create rival services, withholding new content.

Bird Box became a cultural sensation after its December 21 release on Netflix. The company estimated that 80 million households will have watched the movie starring Sandra Bullock in its first four weeks, sparking a viral reaction online.

The buzz came during the Christmas holiday season, when sales of phones and internet-connected TVs typically lift Netflix subscriptions.

The company used Thursday’s earnings report to selectively release a few other highlights as well.

Elite, one of the company’s Spanish original shows, has been viewed by more than 20 million member households during the four weeks following its release; the stalker drama You is on track to attract 40 million viewers within four weeks; and Sex Education, which debuted on Netflix a week ago, is also expected to top 40 million viewers within four weeks.

The streaming service also called out a number of additional titles from around the globe for their success on the service: Bodyguard, which it co-produced with the BBC; the Italian series Baby; and the company’s first Turkish original The Protector all attracted more than 10 million viewers during their first four weeks on the service.

“Great stories transcend borders,” company executives said in their letter to investors.

– Reuters with Variety

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