Netflix has a high bar to clear as 2021 movie blitz takes shape, earnings in focus

Alexandra Canal
·3 min read

Netflix (NFLX), which reports its fourth quarter earnings on Tuesday, is pulling out all the stops to satisfy the needs of all viewers — and keep its current ones glued to their screens.

In a eyebrow-raising announcement released this week just ahead of its earnings, Netflix revealed it will be dropping an original film every week in 2021.

Flicks like “Malcom & Marie” starring Zendaya and John David Washington have already received Oscars buzz, while others like “Don’t Look Up” highlight the platform’s ability to nab A-list talent with a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep and more.

The streaming giant will also be leaning into more kid friendly releases, such as a new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” reboot for the platform. Seth Rogen’s production company is partnering with Nickelodeon to introduce the four Karate-kicking turtles to a new generation.

The wide breadth of content comes at a critical time for the streaming giant which has weathered a number of controversies and changes over the past year — from price hikes to pandemic adjustments.

Netflix was one of the early tech platforms to see quite a signifiant boom amid COVID-19. But subscriber gains quickly fizzled to its weakest level in four years, as lockdown orders eased and competition surged.

Netflix added just 2.2 million global subscribers in the third quarter of 2020 — significantly lower than both Wall Street’s estimates of 3.4 million and its own company forecast. (For comparison, Netflix added 28.3 million new subscribers in the first three quarters of 2020.)

For Q4, Netflix said it expects to add 6 million paying subs with Wall Street predicting a similar level at 5.9 million.

Netflix expects to add 6 million paying subscribers in Q4
Netflix expects to add 6 million paying subscribers in Q4

Analysts remain quite bullish on the stock, as original 2020 series from “Tiger King” to “The Queen’s Gambit” saw viral and critical acclaim. And with new movies coming every week over the next year, the bar is still set incredibly high.

Yet, competitors like HBO Max (T) are proving to be a viable threat.

Warner Media recently confirmed that the streamer will air the new “Sex and the City” reboot with series’ stars Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis all returning. (Kim Cattrall — who played the infamous Samantha — will not be reprising her role.)

HBO Max will also be home to the upcoming “Friends” reunion special, which was pushed back to 2021 due to the pandemic.

Dark COVID-19 outlook hurting film permits

While content seems to be safe for now, film permit applications — which cover shoots for movies, TV shows and commercials — fell 25% in December compared to November, with only 613 applications filed.

The data — provided to Yahoo Finance by FilmLA, the nonprofit that oversees production in LA county — represents the second straight month of permit request declines as COVID-19 cases surge in Southern California.

SAG-AFTRA — which released a detailed report earlier this summer outlining new health and safety procedures for actors and crew members to return to work — recently released a statement discouraging production restarts until the end of January (or later) as hospitals remain at capacity.

The delay could lead to a backlog of yet-to-be created content — a problem that has plagued the industry since the start of the pandemic.

Alexandra is a producer & entertainment correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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