Following a record year that saw Netflix add 36 million subscribers in 2020, the world's most popular video streaming service saw its subscriber growth slow significantly in the first six months of 2021. According to the company's latest earnings release, Netflix added just 5.5 million subscribers in the first half of 2021, compared to more than 25 million during the same period a year ago. In the three months ended June 30, the streaming giant added just 1.5 million paid subscribers worldwide, marking the lowest quarterly gain since Q2 2013. While that may sound alarming at first glance, there's no need to hit the panic button on Netflix just yet.
According to the company's own assessment of the slowdown, it became a victim of last year's success, when a deluge of people signed up amid stay-at-home orders and limited options to spend their spare time. Many of those subscribers might otherwise have signed up this year, creating what the company calls "some lumpiness in our membership growth" in its letter to shareholders.
While the unforeseen 2020 growth spurt is arguably the biggest driver of the latest slowdown, pandemic-related production delays also played a role, resulting in a weakened content slate for the first half of 2021. With a content line-up skewed towards the second half of the year, Netflix expects to see subscriber growth pick up again, forecasting net additions of 3.5 million for the third quarter. If that goal is met, the company will have added 54 million subscribers over the course of 24 months, which is roughly in line with its pre-pandemic growth trajectory.