Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) more than doubled its own projections for new customers as quarantined audiences binged on series such as “Tiger King,” but the company predicted a weaker second half of the year if stay-at-home orders to fight the coronavirus are lifted.
The world’s largest streaming service gained 15.8 million paying customers from January through March, bringing its global total to 182.9 million. Netflix had predicted it would add 7 million during the period.
The company warned that it expected fewer new subscribers from July to December compared with a year earlier, however. Many people who would have joined then are likely to have already signed up, executives said.
The company is among the few businesses to benefit from government orders imposed in March to keep people away from each other in order to stop the spread of the highly infectious novel coronavirus. While the S&P 500 Index .SPX has fallen 19% from its Feb. 19 record high, Netflix has gained 11% during the same period.
Netflix also issued a bullish forecast that it would add 7.5 million new customers for the current quarter, which ends in June, though the company said it was “mostly guesswork” given uncertainty over when stay-at-home orders might be lifted. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had expected 3.8 million.
In the quarter, Netflix true-crime documentary “Tiger King,” about a colorful Oklahoma zookeeper, became a cultural sensation. It also released reality show “Love is Blind,” and a new season of Spanish-language thriller “Money Heist.”
As streaming video has grown in the United States, the market has become more competitive with the debut of Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) Disney+ and upcoming rivals. That has pushed Netflix to look for growth overseas.
The company’s biggest expansion from January through March came from Europe, where it added 4.4 million new customers.
The most popular Netflix plan in the United States costs $13, nearly double the $7-per-month cost for Disney+.
Netflix does not currently plan to raise its prices given the global pandemic, Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said.