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'We've evolved': Netflix explains decision to stop reporting crucial subscriber data

Netflix (NFLX) will no longer report membership numbers starting next year — a bombshell move for the streaming industry, which has historically tied company performance to subscriber gains or losses.

"We've evolved, and we're going to continue to evolve," Netflix co-CEO Greg Peters said about the decision while speaking during the company's first quarter earnings call on Thursday.

Along with subscribers, the company will also stop reporting a key profitability metric — average revenue per member, or ARM.

Peters cited Netflix's shifting revenue model, which now includes its advertising tier and "extra member" fees, as a prime reason for the decision.

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These "are things that aren't directly connected to the number of members," he said.

The executive added the streamer has also "evolved our pricing and plans with multiple tiers and different price points across different countries." Therefore, he said, "each incremental member has a different business impact."

"All of that means, by the historical simple math that we all did, the number of members [multiplied by] the monthly price is increasingly less accurate in capturing the state of the business," Peters said, although he did note the company will not "be silent" on subscribers either.

"We'll periodically update when we grow and we hit certain major milestones, [but] it's just not going to be part of our regular reporting," he said.

Instead, the company will continue to focus and report on other metrics, including operating income, operating margins, net income, free cash flow, earnings per share, and revenue.

Engagement will also be more of an emphasis, the company stressed in its earnings release.

"Success in streaming starts with engagement," Netflix said. "When people watch more, they stick around longer (retention), recommend Netflix more often (acquisition) and place a higher value on our service."

"It’s why we’ve been providing progressively more information on engagement, starting with our Top 10 weekly and most popular lists and more recently our bi-annual report into viewing on Netflix (which covers ~99% of all video watch time on our service)."

Although tech giants Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) do not reveal subscriber figures for their respective streaming services, other media companies do.

Disney (DIS) separately breaks out Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ figures, while Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) reports a combined number for its Max and Discovery+ platforms. Paramount Global (PARA) also reveals subscriber figures for its flagship platform Paramount+.

"The movement to no longer disclose quarterly subscriptions from next year will not go down well; more so given subs growth that the streaming king has seen over the last year," PP Foresight tech and media analyst Paolo Pescatore said in an email.

Citi analyst Jason Bazinet added: "We suspect reduced disclosures may disappoint the Street."

In its first quarter earnings report Thursday, Netflix reported a surge of subscribers, with net additions of 9.3 million blowing past expectations of 4.8 million. This follows the 13 million subs the streamer added in 2023's fourth quarter.

FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is shown on one of their Hollywood buildings in Los Angeles, California, U.S., July 12, 2023.   REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
The Netflix logo is shown on one of their Hollywood buildings in Los Angeles, California, July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo (Reuters / Reuters)

Alexandra Canal is a Senior Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on X @allie_canal, LinkedIn, and email her at alexandra.canal@yahoofinance.com.

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