Netflix’s Subscriber Growth

Netflix have released their latest subscriber numbers, and whilst the company’s user base has certainly grown, the future is certainly in online movie delivery.

Netflix had 2.23 million subscribers at the end of Q3 2004 – up 73% from 1.29 million on its books at the end of Q3 2003. Only 4% of its current subscriber base are on free trials, and those 96% of paying subs brought in a projected US$21 million in Q3 2004.

Netflix’s current business model is to rent up to three DVDs at a time to customers via the postal service. With the growth of home broadband, sending films out in the mail evidently has a limited lifespan, and so the company recently partnered with TiVo in a venture to designed to switch the delivery mechanism to online – finally putting the “Net” in “Netflix”.

However, the company believes that their 25,000 title DVD library still has some legs on it – CFO Barry McCarthy commented in a statement: “Three years ago we shortened the estimated useful life for our DVD rental library from three years to one year. For a young company with limited operating experience, that accounting estimate was management’s best judgement of the useful life of catalogue content at that time. However, with several years of operating history behind us and based on analysis of this historical data, management’s current best judgement of the useful life of catalogue content is three years.”

SG Cowen and Co. report that things won’t be so simple for Netflix, and that they will face stiff competition from Blockbuster when they go online – Blockbuster’s brand and market share will impact Netflix’s subscriber base, both in its DVD by post and online rental business, over the next few quarters.


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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?