Netflix shares surge on big subscriber additions despite Hollywood strikes

FILE PHOTO: Smartphone with Netflix logo is placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken April 19, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Streaming pioneer Netflix showed resilience by gaining more quarterly subscribers than in the past three years despite strikes by Hollywood's writers and actors, sending its shares up 16.23% on Thursday.

Netflix capitalized on its heft in global production, as well as the economic hardships of its media rivals, to garner 247 million subscribers in the third quarter, a gain of nearly 9 million over the last three months.

It was the greatest gain since the COVID-19 outbreak fueled unprecedented growth in early 2020.

Netflix shares rose to $402.37, putting them on course for the biggest one-day percentage gain in nearly three years.

"The management deserves an Emmy for managing investor expectations," Bernstein analysts wrote in a note, adding that paid-sharing has opened up a bigger-than-expected market of potential subscribers for Netflix.

Results from media rivals such as Walt Disney, Paramount Global and Warner Bros Discovery will show the impact of the industry's months-long work stoppage, which began in May with strike by Hollywood's writers.

Members of the Writers Guild of America settled this month, though actors, who walked off the job in July, remain on strike.

U.S. broadcast networks filled their fall lineups with repeats and reality shows, while rival streaming services delayed releases and had less foreign-language programs than Netflix, which could produce in more than 50 countries and languages.

"Due to its large international presence, Netflix is positioned better than most entertainment companies in plugging programming gaps from the writers' and actors' strikes," said Insider Intelligence principal analyst Ross Benes.

"With original US productions delayed and other TV and streaming companies no longer holding exclusive titles with vise grips, expect Netflix to revert to its past when many of its biggest shows were licensed," Benes said.

A live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series, "One Piece", which represented a collaboration between Netflix's U.S. and Japanese content teams, ranked as the top show in 84 countries - a feat that even the popular sci-fi series "Stranger Things" did not accomplish.

Meanwhile, the legal drama "Suits", which last aired on the USA Network in 2019, set viewing records when it landed on the streaming service in the summer, one of several television shows Netflix licensed from media competitors that are finding fresh audiences on Netflix.

"Because of our distribution footprint and our recommendation system, we are able to take 'Suits', which had played on other streaming services, and pop it right into the center of the culture in a huge way," Netflix Co-CEO Ted Sarandos said during Wednesday's investor video.

As talks between the union for actors and performers and major studios broke down last week, Sarandos saw parallels to how Netflix navigated "prolonged and pretty unpredictable production interruptions" during the pandemic.

"These are the times that I'm glad we have such a rich and deep and broad program selection," Sarandos said.

Still, Netflix is not free from strike disruptions. U.S.-based shows such as mega-hit "Stranger Things" are on hold until actors return to work.

Delays for some of its biggest shows are "problematic" for Netflix because "it doesn't have the same back catalog as Disney+ to fall back on", said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Chavi Mehta and Arsheeya Bajwa in Bengaluru; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Arun Koyyur)

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