Graphic shows Netflix soaring subscriber base.
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BUSINESS

Netflix ends cash burn – returns to positive cash flow

By Duncan Mil

January 20, 2021 - Netflix attracted 8.51 million new customers in the final three months of 2020, passing the 200 million-subscriber mark and saying it no longer needs to borrow money to build its entertainment empire.

The global streamer invested some $17 billion in new content in 2020, up from around $15bn in 2019. Since 2013, content creation has exceeded the company’s cash generation by more than $11bn.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has so far relied on debt to fund this so-called negative free cash flow amid its content spending spree. The company said it is close to being free cash flow positive and will consider returning cash to shareholders through buybacks. Free cash flow for the full year 2020 was plus $1.9bn versus minus $3.3bn in 2019.

Executives said in their letter to shareholders that in the fourth quarter of 2020, hits like “The Queen’s Gambit” was watched by 62 million member households in the first 28 days on the service. In addition to becoming the “biggest limited series in Netflix history,” Netflix boosted its cultural impact, prompting chess board sales.

“The Midnight Sky,” starring and directed by George Clooney, was the most prominent original film of the quarter, Netflix said, with 72 million member households watching in the first four weeks.

In quarter four, Netflix had to contend with several new competitors in streaming including Apple TV+, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max from AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Peacock from CNBC parent NBCUniversal. Still to come is ViacomCBS’s Paramount+.

PUBLISHED: 20/01/2021; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Netflix
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