Netflix Inc is raising monthly fees for its US subscribers by between 13% and 18%, the video streaming pioneer's first price increase since 2017 as it spends heavily on original content and international expansion.
Prices for its popular standard plan, which allows streaming on two devices at the same time, will rise to US$12.99 (RM53.18) per month from US$10.99 (RM44.99), the company said in a statement.
Netflix shares rose 6.5% to close at US$354.64 (RM1,451.75), adding to their 30% rise so far this year.
The company's top-tier plan, which allows streaming on four screens in high definition, will increase to US$15.99 (RM65.46) from US$13.99 (RM57.27) per month, while the fee for its basic plan will rise to US$8.99 (RM36.80) from US$7.99 (RM32.71).
In comparison, AT&T Inc's HBO Now streaming service charges US$14.99 (RM61.36) per month, while Hulu's no-advertisements plan is priced at US$11.99 (RM49.08) per month.
"It highlights that Netflix has pricing power and even after the increase it remains a very cheap entertainment alternative," Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeff Wlodarczak said.
Netflix has been spending billions to bolster its original content, which boasts award-winning shows such as The Crown, Black Mirror and Wild Wild Country to fend off intensifying competition from players such as Amazon.com's Prime Video service and Hulu. The company reported it had 137 million customers at the end of September.
The price hikes are expected to fetch Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, ahead of the launch of streaming services from AT&T and Walt Disney Co.
While aggressive spending – a planned US$8bil (RM32.91bil) in 2018 – has led to a surge in subscriber growth, its debt doubled to US$6.50bil (RM26.74bil) in 2017 from US$3.36bil (RM13.82bil) in 2016.
The company is expected to have a debt level of US$8.33bil (RM34.26bil) in 2018, according to Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Co, which owns 15,019 shares of Netflix.
Netflix is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results after market close on Jan 10.
"With Netflix frequently tapping the debt markets on several recent occasions, the price hike could help ease concerns with a growing deficit on free cash flow to fund a likely continued escalation in Netflix's content spending, which likely topped US$13bil (RM53.48bil) in 2018," CFRA analyst Tuna Amobi said. – Reuters