By Sarah Toy
SunTrust tracked subscriber additions through November and said trends were 'pointing to 4Q sub adds slightly below consensus'
Shares of Netflix Inc. (NFLX) were down 2.5% Wednesday morning after analysts at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey slashed their stock price target to $355 from $410, citing their own data suggesting lower-than-expected subscriber additions in the fourth quarter.
SunTrust tracked subscriber additions through November and said trends were "pointing to 4Q sub adds slightly below consensus." Analysts led by Matthew Thornton wrote that the firm's subscriber tracker, which bases its data on Google search trends, suggested fourth-quarter U.S. member additions between 1.43 million and 1.75 million, lower than the current consensus of 1.75 million to 1.8 million. Internationally, SunTrust said Netflix was tracking to add 5.0 million to 6.9 million subscribers, lower than the consensus of 7.3 million to 7.6 million.
Thornton acknowledged the tracker did not take into account the effect of content that hit the streaming platform in December, including the hotly-anticipated "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch" and the widely-watched thriller "Bird Box."
Read: Netflix: Nearly one-third of subscribers watched 'Bird Box' in first week (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-nearly-one-third-of-subscribers-watched-bird-box-in-a-week-2018-12-28)
Also: Everything coming to Netflix in January -- and what's leaving (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/everything-coming-to-netflix-in-january-and-whats-leaving-2018-12-31)
Thornton wrote that SunTrust is still watching Netflix's December data and how that could affect the number of new subscribers in the fourth quarter. "Key content in December... should close the gap, but meaningful 4Q upside looks unlikely," he wrote.
Separately, Netflix has confirmed it is no longer allowing users to pay for its streaming service (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflix-is-no-longer-allowing-users-pay-through-apples-itunes-2019-01-02) through Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) iTunes service. It's a big loss for Apple according to data from SensorTower, Netflix is the top-grossing app in the U.S. for Apple -- the company got an estimated $256 million in app-related fees from the streaming giant in 2018, according to data cited in TechCrunch (https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/31/netflix-stops-paying-the-apple-tax-on-its-853m-in-annual-ios-revenue/).
Read: Netflix's Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos to get $31.5 million in compensation in 2019 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/netflixs-reed-hastings-and-ted-sarandos-to-get-315-million-in-2019-2018-12-31)
The company also removed an episode of its satirical comedy show "Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj" from its Saudi Arabia service after complaints from authorities there. Netflix said it was told the episode breached the kingdom's anti-cybercrime law, which forbids it from "impinging on public order, religious values, public morals, and privacy." In the episode, Minhaj criticizes the official account of the killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-senators-conclude-the-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-journalists-killing-2018-12-04).
Netflix shares have gained 31% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has fallen 7.6%. Apple shares have fallen 9.5% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 6%.
-Sarah Toy; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 06, 2019 11:40 ET (16:40 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.