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Netflix to hide its subscriber numbers starting in 2025

Netflix on a TV screen showing on the Roku home screen.
Derek Malcolm / Digital Trends

Netflix today announced that it no longer will report quarterly subscriber numbers and how much money it makes per membership, starting with its earnings report for the first quarter of 2025 (which will come this time next year). The news, which really is only of use to the financial community and those of us who pay attention to this sort of thing for a living, came in the company’s Q1 2024 earnings report.

“We’re focused on revenue and operating margin as our primary financial metrics — and engagement (i.e. time spent) as our best proxy for customer satisfaction,” Netflix wrote in its quarterly letter to shareholders. “In our early days, when we had little revenue or profit, membership growth was a strong indicator of our future potential. But now we’re generating very substantial profit and free cash flow (FCF). We are also developing new revenue streams like advertising and our extra member feature, so memberships are just one component of our growth.”

Netflix also pointed to the current state of its various plans as another reason not to focus so much on the total number of subscribers and ARM — average revenue per membership — because one tier of service can have a much higher revenue than another. For example, Netflix previously said that it actually earns more revenue on its cheapest tier of service, which also contains advertising. That tier is limited to a lower resolution and the use of a single device at a time (saving on data transmission), while more than making up the difference through the advertising revenue.

The letter continued: “As we’ve evolved our pricing and plans from a single to multiple tiers with different price points depending on the country, each incremental paid membership has a very different business impact.” Netflix hasn’t given forecasts for quarter paid memberships (as in, predicted what that number will be in three months) since 2023.

Netflix did say that it will “announce major subscriber milestones as we cross them.”

While it’s a significant change in the way it does things, Netflix won’t be the only company that doesn’t regularly update shareholders (and the rest of the world) as to how big its service is. Apple is the most famous example of this, of course. It says how much revenue it brought in with a specific category — iPhone, Mac, iPad, etc. — but not how many devices it sold. Or in a more direct comparison with Netflix, Apple doesn’t release subscriber numbers for its streaming service, Apple TV+.

Google’s the same way. It doesn’t give regular updates on the number of subscribers to YouTube TV, which is the biggest live-streaming service in the U.S. But it does, on occasion, announce major numbers. It crowed about having 5 million subscribers in the summer of 2022, but didn’t give an update until YouTube TV hit 8 million subscribers in February 2024.

For the record: Netflix finished the first quarter of 2024 with 269.6 million subscribers, up from 260.28 at the end of 2023.

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