SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Netflix's decision to feature original programming on its Internet video service appears to be pulling in more customers.
Numbers released Monday showed Netflix Inc. added 2 million U.S. subscribers to its video streaming service during the first three months of the year. Through March, Netflix had 29.2 million U.S. streaming subscribers.
Those first-quarter gains, coupled with signs that Netflix's profit margins are widening, delighted investors. The company's stock soared $35.33, or 20 percent, to $209.70 after the results came out.
The period was highlighted by the early February debut of "House of Cards," a critically acclaimed series made exclusively for Netflix.
The subscriber growth helped Netflix bounce back from a loss at the same time last year and generate revenue slightly above analyst projections.
The company eked out a profit of $2.7 million, or 5 cents per share, in the quarter. That contrasted with a loss of $4.6 million, or 8 cents per share, last year.
If not for the costs for refinancing some of Netflix's debt, the company said it would have earned 31 cents per share. That figure topped the average analyst estimate of 18 cents per share.
Revenue rose 18 percent from last year to $1.02 billion — about $7 million above analyst forecasts.
Earlier on HuffPost:
<a href="http://paidcontent.org/article/419-draft-sonys-grouper-evolves-into-more-complex-video-package-rebrands-as/" target="_hplink">Crackle was bought by Sony in 2006</a> (when it was a startup called Grouper), and now its <a href="http://crackle.com" target="_hplink">streaming-only movie and TV library </a>features mostly Sony productions. It is free to watch, and you don't have to register, but you do have to sit through advertisements that break up your movie. The options are fairly limited right now--there are about 250 full-length movies and episodes from 50 TV shows, though apparently Crackle adds about 10 of each every month. The quality of the options is pretty good, however; I've been watching "Pineapple Express" since lunch, and I'm moving on to the original "Bad Boys" when that's done. The stream looks great at 480p on my laptop, though would probably pixellate on a television screen. <strong>PROS</strong>: Totally free, no registration required; varied quality options; user-friendly website design; good picture on laptop for free service; free iPhone, iPad and Android app. <strong>CONS</strong>: Ads, ads, ads; limited quantity of movies and especially TV shows; no DVD rental option.
A startup founded in 2004 and <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/23/walmart-vudu-deal-walmart_n_472838.html" target="_hplink">purchased by Wal-Mart</a> in 2010, <a href="http://vudu.com" target="_hplink">Vudu is a movie-streaming service</a> that prides itself on two key features: first, it has a database of high definition, 1080p movies that is larger than any other website's; and second, it is accessible on any device that connects to the Internet, from PlayStation 3s and Blu-Ray Players, to laptops and Internet-enabled TVs. Vudu is compatible with over 300 devices and works as a simple laptop movie streamer, too. The selection is terrific--over 20,000 movies are available-- though the payment option (for me) is not as terrific. Renting a movie for two days costs between $2 and $7, depending on the desirability of the movie and the streaming quality. A new release in high definition at $7 for 2 days? Pass. <strong>PROS</strong>: High definition streaming; terrific selection of new releases and classics; great "Collections" sections, including my personal favorite, a "Best of Rotten Tomatoes" playlist. <strong>CONS</strong>: Pay-per-view on-demand system can get very expensive very fast; no DVD rental.
That ".org" is not a typo: <a href="http://www.facetsmovies.com/user/homeNewUser2.php" target="_hplink">Facets Multi-Media is a Chicago-based non-profit</a> founded in 1975 as a film appreciation group that now has a monthly DVD-by-mail rental system similar to Netflix's. There are over 75,000 movies in its warehouse, and one-out-at-a-time plans are $8.99 a month or $90 a year. If you're a little squeamish about signing up for a year, the monthly plan is one dollar more than the new Netflix DVD-only plan ($7.99), but perhaps you can justify the extra expense with the knowledge you're supporting a non-profit. As a film appreciation society, Facets has a great selection of rare and imported films, as well as playlists <a href="http://www.facetsmovies.com/user/moviePickExpert.php" target="_hplink">curated by "experts" that are worth checking out</a>. <strong>PROS:</strong> Reasonably priced DVD-by-mail rentals from a non-profit; excellent selection of independent and foreign films; recommendation lists from Werner Herzog, Stephen Sondheim, Dan Savage, and other notables. <strong>CONS:</strong> No streaming (yet--a company spokesperson says it's on its way); cannot match Netflix's prices, even after the price hike.
<a href="http://zediva.com" target="_hplink">Zediva</a> is an intriguing video-streaming service that may or may not be legal (they are <a href="http://paidcontent.org/article/419-mpaa-v.-zediva-is-shaping-up-to-be-quite-the-legal-showdown/" target="_hplink">currently being sued by the MPAA</a>). It is streaming-only, and there is no high definition streaming, but the prices are incredibly low ($2 for a 14-day rental of a new release, or 10 rentals for $10). <a href="http://www.zediva.com/faq" target="_hplink">How do they do it</a>? When you rent a movie online, you are really renting a physical DVD and a DVD player at Zediva headquarters. The DVD player plays the movie for you and streams it--and thus Zediva does not have to pay the Motion Picture Association of America. So if you're looking for a way to both save money and tick off the MPAA, Zediva might be your best option. <strong>PROS:</strong> Very cheap prices for streaming new releases; no monthly fees; chance to stick it to the man. <strong>CONS: </strong>Might not exist soon; possibly illegal; substandard video quality and website design.
<a href="http://greencine.com" target="_hplink">San Francisco-based GreenCine is Netflix for film buffs</a>; they have "an accent on independent, art house, classics, foreign, documentary, anime and Asian cinema," as their website <a href="http://www.greencine.com/central/dvdrentalinfo" target="_hplink">boasts</a>. With over 30,000 DVDs available for rent at plans starting at $9.95 per month (which lets you take out one video at a time), it's a little more expensive than Netflix for mail rental, but that is the price you pay for Greencine's "eclection" (again, per their website). Not included in your monthly fee are on-demand rentals: rather than streaming, you download the movie on DivX. Most of those rentals are $5 for 30 days with the DRM-protected flick. So, streaming is available, but only for a price. <strong>PROS:</strong> Awesome online selection of niche films, including anime, indie, and foreign; Blu-Rays available; DivX-quality watching on computer <strong>CONS:</strong> The prices. More expensive than Netflix, and the per-rental fee for streaming is way too high unless you are only streaming one movie a month