updated 04:30 pm EDT, Mon April 23, 2012
Netflix Q1 beats estimates but takes on Comcast
Netflix was aggressive both in performance and in political stance with its quarterly results on Monday. Despite anticipating significant losses, it lost just $5 million as part of its push to the UK and other countries where the consensus had been closer to a $16.9 million hit. Its revenue at $870 million, while down from the fall, was up 21 percent over a year earlier, reflecting the much larger number of subscribers.
The streaming video service also came in on the higher side of subscribers. It grew to 23.4 million US-based Internet viewers, just shy of the 23.6 million it had predicted. Worldwide, it roughly doubled the number of customers, adding 1.2 million of the streaming-only viewers to hit 2.4 million outside of the US and thus 25.8 million worldwide. Disc-based subscribers sank by over a million to 10.1 million.
It warned that the spring was likely to look worse than the same point in 2010 due to the much larger base, but the company was "healthy," Netflix said in its investor letter.
In a sign of possibly more serious action, the company formalized its CEO's complaints about Comcast net neutrality in the letter. A section attacked Comcast's Xfinity TV app for the Xbox 360 as "not neutral in any sense," since its traffic was sitting on the same pipelines as that of Netflix but didn't count towards the 250GB bandwidth cap on Comcast Internet use. A private network didn't change the situation, Netflix said, openly calling for changes that would make access fairer to itself.
"Comcast could raise the cap and make it apply equally or just eliminate the caps," the firm wrote. "Net neutrality principles mean a level playing field for all Internet applications."
No signs existed of an imminent lawsuit or FCC complaint, although the FCC has said it's looking into the matter. When it drafted net neutrality rules, it specifically included clauses to try and prevent end-runs where traditional TV providers use 'special' private networking to bypass neutrality rules.