Netflix Touts 1 Million Subscriber Milestone in U.K., Ireland

Netflix red Envelope - H 2011
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Netflix red Envelope - H 2011

Amid questions about the company's effect on BSkyB, one analyst highlights its U.K. losses and says that the British pay TV industry giant will "retain its leading position."

LONDON - Netflix said Monday that it has crossed the 1 million subscriber milestone in the U.K. and Ireland within seven months of launch - "faster than in any other territory it has launched."

The company had recently mentioned that it had hit the mark, but it issued a formal statement about it Monday morning to tout how quickly it reached it.  

"This membership milestone is evidence that Netflix has rapidly gained popularity in the U.K. and Ireland," said CEO Reed Hastings. "Our British and Irish members clearly enjoy the ability to instantly watch a large variety of TV shows and films streaming from Netflix on their favorite devices whenever they want."

Netflix said its U.K. and Ireland growth has been four times faster than it took Twitter to hit 1 million users globally and nearly twice as fast as it took Facebook and Foursquare globally. The online streaming powerhouse also said that 10 percent of the U.K. population now dedicate two hours or more of their day to watching their favorite TV show via the Internet according to a survey by YouGov for Netflix.

But at least one analyst said Monday that any possible investor concerns that Netflix could affect pay TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake, are unwarranted.

"Although Netflix could push up the cost of content for BSkyB as it bids for first run movie rights and U.S. drama, we expect BSkyB to retain its leading position in the U.K. pay TV near-to-medium term helped by [broadband-only video service] NowTV and also Sky Go - both over-the-top offerings," said UBS analyst Polo Tang in a report on Monday. "Longer-term, the main uncertainty remains [telecom giant] BT's ambitions in the pay TV space."

Tang also highlighted that Netflix is losing $100 million per quarter on its international expansion "with a sizeable portion of that relating to its investment in the U.K."

Comedy and drama are the top genre choices among U.K. and Irish members, and Sunday night is the favorite time for subscribers in those countries to watch streaming content, according to the company.


Twitter: @georgszalai