Netflix's pandemic-fuelled subscriber growth is slowing far faster than anticipated as people who have been cooped at home are able to get out and do other things again.
The video-streaming service added four million more worldwide subscribers from January through March, its smallest gain during that three-month period in four years.
The performance reported on Tuesday was about two million fewer subscribers than management and analysts had predicted Netflix would add during the first quarter.
It marked a huge comedown from the same time last year when Netflix added nearly 16 million subscribers. That came just as governments imposed lockdowns that created a huge captive audience for the leading video-streaming service.
Signalling the trend is continuing, Netflix forecast an increase of just one million worldwide subscribers in April-June, down from an increase of 10 million subscribers at the same time last year.
"It's just a little wobbly right now," Netflix co-chief executive Reed Hastings said during an earnings call on Tuesday.
The poor showing rattled investors, causing the Los Gatos, California, company's stock to plunge by as much as 11 per cent in after-hours trading, even though Netflix's revenue hit analyst targets and its profit exceeded estimates.
Netflix earned $US1.71 billion, or $US3.75 per share, more than doubling from a year ago. Revenue climbed 24 per cent from the same time last year to $US7.16 billion.
The inevitable slowdown in subscriber growth were widely telegraphed by Netflix's management, which said the gains were a pandemic-driven anomaly.
Now that a large swath of the US population has been vaccinated, people are able to move around more freely and are finding other diversions besides watching TV series and movies on Netflix.
Netflix added a record 37 million subscribers last year. The new customers added in 2021 brought Netflix's total subscriber base to 208 million, a year-on-year rise of 14 per cent.
As it battles to maintain streaming supremacy against competitors such as Disney, Apple and Amazon, Netflix - which has produced award-winning series such as Stranger Things, The Crown, and Ozark - said it would spend more than $US17 billion on content this year.
The value of the company fell from $US245.5 billion to $US218.1 billion and its share price fell from $US554.42 to $US501.44 in after-hours trading, hitting as low as $US489.28.
AP with PA
Australian Associated Press