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Tiger King, lockdown help Netflix smash record – but there may be trouble ahead

Netflix added a record number of subscribers during the last three months, as locked down viewers flocked to the streaming platform.

The company just announced it gained 15.77 million paid customers during between January and the end of March 2020, showing Covid-19 hasn’t brought bad tidings to all tech companies.

Prior to the lockdown Netflix had only estimated it would be adding a more modest seven million subscribers during the financial quarter, but mass stay-at-home orders for large portions of the global population saw those guesses almost doubled.

Netflix likely has the Tiger King Joe Exotic to thank for the massive boost in subscribers too. Nielsen, the TV ratings aggregators in the United States reckons the oddball documentary was viewed by 32.4 million unique homes in the first ten days, following its launch in March. That even beat out Stranger Things Season 2 (31.2m) and came close to surpassing Stranger Things Season 3 (36.3m).

Related: Netflix vs Disney Plus 

The subscriber figures came despite the launch of Disney Plus in a number of new countries, as well as aggressive attempts to grab the streaming dollar from the likes of Apple TV Plus. The new additions brings Netflix’s total paid subscriber base to 182.86 million globally.

Despite the short term boon in subscriber numbers, Netflix faces some challenges ahead. With its original productions currently on a shooting hiatus, thanks again to Covid-19, there are likely to be mass delays to its release schedule before the year is out.

In an investor letter the company wrote: “First, our membership growth has temporarily accelerated due to home confinement. Second, our international revenue will be less than previously forecast due to the dollar rising sharply. Third, due to the production shutdown, some cash spending on content will be delayed, improving our free cash flow, and some title releases will be delayed, typically by a quarter.”

Indeed, the boon might be short lived. When the lockdown is over and we can all go outside, or sit in the pub, or go shopping, or go to the football, or see our friends and family, is Netflix even going to get a look in?

The firm added: “Hopefully, progress against the virus will allow governments to lift the home confinement soon. As that happens, we expect viewing and growth to decline.”

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