Shares are down about 14% in mid-day trading after the home video company acknowledged that its forecast for an important barometer of its progress — growth in domestic streaming subscriptions — had been way too optimistic. “Netflix has bet its future on streaming,” Bernstein Research’s Carlos Kirjner says this morning. “The streaming business in the US, its largest and most mature market, is the canary in the coal mine. The canary is not singing.” But while the stock price could recover soon, the company’s credibility might not. Netflix now “essentially becomes a ‘show me’ stock,” Janney Capital Markets’ Anthony Wible says. That could hurt: Remember that early this month Netflix started to regain the Street’s favor after some analysts and hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson said that it had become a bargain. That led to a nearly 36% jump in Netflix shares in a little more than a week.
But now the bears can say, well, toldja. “We think investors have misjudged Netflix’s ability to continue to grow with inferior content,” Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter says. He warns people to stay away from the stock “until the company provides greater insight into growth trends for content costs, subscriber growth and profitability.” Macquarie Equities Research’s Tim Nollan also questions management’s credibility, saying he expects “subscriber growth to slow below the company’s confident outlook, while content costs will remain high in the face of increasing [streaming video] competition.”
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told analysts last night that execs are “continuing to work very hard and look forward to being in a better place relative to our guidance a quarter from now. We certainly try very hard every quarter and it doesn’t feel great to come in, in the lower half [of their forecast]. But it is what it is and we’re moving forward.”