While no one in their right mind would wish for a global health emergency/economic crisis, it’s hard to make a list of companies that might profit from the current situation and not have Netflix on that list. A global crisis that forces people to stay home for weeks? Movie theaters, bars, restaurants, and gyms shuttered? No live sports on TV? What else are people supposed to do but cuddle up and watch Tiger King?
Netflix’s latest quarterly results seem to confirm that notion, as the streaming giant added more paid subscribers over the past six months than ever before in its history. Nearly 16 million people signed up for the service in the first quarter alone, with another 10 million subscribers added by the end of June. That brings Netflix's global paid memberships to 193 million, up 26 million since the beginning of 2020. To add some perspective, Netflix added just 12 million subscribers in the first half of 2019 and less than 28 million in the entire year.
Considering the circumstances under which the record subscriber growth was achieved, Netflix was sensible enough not to gloat about it. Instead the company struck a pensive tone in its letter to shareholders. "We live in uncertain times with restrictions on what we can do socially and many people are turning to entertainment for relaxation, connection, comfort and stimulation," the letter reads, after the company had already acknowledged its fortunate position in a similar letter published in April. "At Netflix, we’re acutely aware that we are fortunate to have a service that is even more meaningful to people confined at home, and which we can operate remotely with minimal disruption in the short to medium term," the company had said back then.
Looking ahead, Netflix expects subscriber growth to slow down significantly in the second half of the year, as some demand may have been moved up in response to the pandemic. The company expects to add 2.5 million subscribers by the end of September, which would mark the lowest level of growth since 2016.