netflix 3q subscriber growth picks up more than expected, riding squid game's phenom
© Provided by CNET Angela Lang/CNET

Netflix added 4.28 million subscribers in the last quarter, riding an unexpected wave of global interest thanks to its breakout hit Squid Game.

“Netflix … enables creators to reach broader audiences — and gives our members an even greater choice of stories to enjoy. There is no better example of this than Squid Game, a unique Korean story that first captured the zeitgeist in Korea and then globally,” the company said in a letter to shareholders. It noted that demand is “high” for consumer products catering to the Squid Game fandom, and “those items are on their way to retail now.”

Netflix, the world’s dominant streaming-video subscription service, said subscribers increased by 4.28 million to reach 213.56 million total between July and September, according to its Tuesday report for third-quarter results. That beats Netflix’s July guidance to add 3.5 million new members, and analysts were anticipating a slimmer beat, on average estimating 3.9 million new members, according to Refinitiv. 

Plus, Netflix’s guidance for the fourth quarter exceeded analysts’ expectations too, with Netflix predicting 8.5 million new members versus the 8.3 million consensus analyst estimate. 

Shares were 2.2% at $653.34  in recent after-hours trading. Through the close, Netflix stock risen 18% so far this year, catching up with the growth of the market at large only in the last few weeks thanks to bullishness around Squid Game. 

After Netflix enjoyed surges in popularity during pandemic lockdown last year from people stuck at home and desperate for entertainment, its growth had slowed to a trickle earlier this year, even losing members in the US and Canada — its biggest single market — during the early summer for the first time since 2019. 

Netflix has pointed to a number of factors for its dry spell earlier this year. Although its ambitious pipeline of shows and movies kept the service stocked with new titles through much of 2020, COVID-19’s delays to film and TV production finally caught up with Netflix in 2021, leading to a light slate of new programming in the first half. And Netflix had long warned that some of the surges in its membership may have pulled forward demand, essentially reeling in subscribers earlier than would they would have joined otherwise later. 

netflix 3q subscriber growth picks up more than expected, riding squid game's phenom
© Angela Lang/CNET Angela Lang/CNET

Netflix has also faced a wave of competition from new rivals like Disney Plus and HBO Max, as media and tech giants have launched their own services to take on Netflix as television transitions to a future of streaming. Netflix’s rare subscriber loss in the US and Canada hinted that the new competition, which is centered in the US, may be pressuring Netflix’s membership growth there. 

This is a developing story; check back for updates. 

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