Exclusive website-tracking data suggests Netflix's subscriber surge during the pandemic started to slow internationally in the 3rd quarter

  • Netflix's meteoric international subscriber growth in 2020 has started to slow, data from the analytics firm SimilarWeb that was shared exclusively with Business Insider suggests. 
  • SimilarWeb tracked traffic to and engagement on Netflix's sign-up and cancellation pages outside the US and Canada to estimate the company's international subscriber growth during the third quarter.
  • The data suggested that while fewer people canceled their Netflix subscriptions, Netflix's international subscriber growth also fell below the levels this time last year.
  • Netflix, which reports earnings for its third quarter on October 20, said a slowdown in subscriber growth was coming after the pandemic drove record rises in subscribers during the first half of the year.
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Netflix's meteoric international subscriber growth in 2020 is starting to slow, data from the analytics firm SimilarWeb that was shared exclusively with Business Insider suggests. 

Netflix broke its own records for subscriber growth this year, adding 26 million paid subscribers globally in the first six months of 2020 — nearly as many as it posted all last year. About 80% of that growth came from outside the US and Canada, driven by regions including Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

But that growth could be flagging.

SimilarWeb tracked traffic and engagement to Netflix's sign-up and cancellation webpages outside the US and Canada to estimate the company's international subscriber growth and churn during the third quarter. Netflix is set to report earnings for its third quarter on October 20.

The SimilarWeb data captures a snapshot of Netflix's traffic, including visits to the desktop and mobile version of its sign-up page and the desktop version of its cancellation page in 56 countries around the world where Netflix is available, including the UK, Brazil, India, and Thailand. It's based on a sample of users who opt in to have their browser activity tracked.

In past quarters, SimilarWeb's Netflix-related data helped predict key subscriber-growth trends at the company.

The third-quarter data suggested that while fewer people canceled their Netflix subscriptions during the period, Netflix's international subscriber growth also fell below the levels this time last year.

SimilarWeb estimated that Netflix's paid international subscriber base grew 29% year over year during the third quarter. In third quarter of 2019, SimilarWeb estimated that Netflix's international subscribers grew by 37%, which was in line with the 35% bump the company reported outside the US and Canada in its official numbers.

Netflix warned of a subscriber-growth slowdown in its last earnings report.

Netflix predicted last quarter that its subscriber growth would slow during the second half of 2020 compared with last year. It said the coronavirus pandemic caused a "pull-forward" of adoption, driving subscribers to sign up for the service sooner than they otherwise might have.

Globally, Netflix forecast it would add just 2.5 million subscribers during the third quarter, compared with the 6.8 million in brought in a year earlier.

On the other hand, cancellations of Netflix are still declining internationally, as they did last quarter, the SimilarWeb data suggested.

That trend suggests that Netflix is holding on to its newly gained subscribers. Last quarter, the subscription-analytics firm Antenna found that Netflix had the lowest rate of churn of any of the major US streaming services.

The streaming giant's pace of releases held steady during the third quarter, with movies like "The Old Guard" and "Enola Holmes" and shows like "Ratched" and a new season of the "The Umbrella Academy" during the quarter. That could also have helped mitigate churn.

Netflix did, however, alienate some subscribers in the US during the third quarter. Earlier SimilarWeb data showed a spike in traffic to Netflix's US cancellation-confirmation page in mid-September, coinciding with the release of the controversial film "Cuties." But traffic to the page returned to normal levels after a few days.

Internationally, SimilarWeb's third-quarter data suggested the film had no discernible effect on cancellations around the rest of the world.

Netflix's stock climbed in 2020 as streaming viewership rose during stay-at-home orders. Shares of the company are up 71% year to date, compared with a 9% lift in the S&P 500 index.

Disclosure: Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, is a Netflix board member.

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