Netflix picked up nearly 16 million global subscribers during the first three months of the year, helping cement its status as one of the world's most essential services in times of isolation or crisis. The quarter spanned the beginning of stay-at-home orders in the US and around the world, a response to the coronavirus pandemic that apparently led millions to latch onto Netflix for entertainment and comfort. Netflix more than doubled the quarterly growth it predicted in January, well before the COVID-19 outbreak began to shut down many major economies, per the AP. It was the biggest three-month gain in the 13-year history of Netflix's streaming service. The numbers, released Tuesday as part of Netflix’s first-quarter earnings report, support a growing belief that video streaming is likely to thrive even as the overall US economy sinks into its first recession in more than a decade.
"Our small contribution to these difficult times is to make home confinement a little more bearable," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during a video call to investors from a bedroom. Investor optimism about Netflix's prospects propelled the company's stock to new highs recently, a sharp contrast with the decline in the broader market. Even though it faces plenty of competition, Netflix appears better positioned to take advantage of the surging demand for TV shows and movies, largely because of its head start in video streaming. Even so, Hastings warned that subscriber growth seems likely to taper off during the second half of the year, given how many new viewers are pouring into the service during the first half. That's just a guess, though, Hastings said, adding that the only thing he feels certain about these days is that video streaming will win more converts for at least the next five years.
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