Netflix will release its second-quarter earnings on Wednesday, the first in a series of reports by entertainment companies that are the subject of ire from striking Hollywood actors and writers.
Analysts expect Netflix to have positive news to report. Resistance to the company’s crackdown on password sharing has been scant. The new advertising tier Netflix introduced in November is expected to start producing solid returns. And overall subscriber churn has remained low, even in the face of additional competition.
“If there is a winner in this, and I think economically in terms of real value, I think there really is only one winner — that is Netflix,” Barry Diller, a veteran media executive, said. “It doesn’t mean all these other companies lose. It just means that these other companies don’t have as good a business model.”
Comcast, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount Global and Disney will all report earnings in the coming weeks. But the optics for Netflix are especially complicated.
Netflix has been on the receiving end of much of the vitriol surrounding the strike, primarily from writers who say the economics of the streaming era have eroded their working conditions and hurt their overall compensation. The company already contended with angry shareholders last month, when they voted to reject lucrative pay packages for the company’s top executives. A rosy earnings report could certainly inflame those on the picket lines.
“The guilds will be listening to every word they say and will use it against them,” said Jessica Reif Ehrlich, a Bank of America analyst who will be leading the question-and-answer session with Netflix’s top executives after the earnings are announced. “The reality is, they are running a major business. Obviously, I will ask them about the strikes, but they have other things going on, like password sharing, which has nothing to do with the strike. I just don’t know how carefully worded or guarded they will be because of the potential reaction by the guilds.”
The company has already seen some benefits from the strike. Last month, Netflix reported it would be licensing original HBO shows from WarnerMedia, including “Insecure,” “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” “Six Feet Under” and “Ballers.”
Netflix announced Wednesday morning that it had removed its $9.99 advertising-free “Basic” plan in the United States and United Kingdom. Consumers who subscribe to this plan can stay on, but new subscribers will have to choose either the ad-supported plan at $6.99, or one of two ad-free options that cost either $15.49 for the “Standard” or $19.99 for “Premium.”
Unlike traditional entertainment companies, which have seen their stock prices drop since the writers’ strike began in May, Netflix shares have increased roughly 39 percent, reaching $474.80 at close of market on Tuesday.
In addition to Netflix’s new subscriber programs generating solid returns, the company is also expected to post gains from reduced operation costs associated with shuttered productions during the writers’ strike. Notable shows like “Big Mouth,” “Cobra Kai” and “Stranger Things” were all scheduled to be in production but instead were shut down. In the case of “Stranger Things,” the creators of the series, Matt and Ross Duffer, chose to stop filming, because they could not continue write while on set.
“Writing does not stop when filming begins,” they wrote on Twitter in early May.