Netflix once fought fiercely for net neutrality, fearing that its online video service would suffer if internet providers were free to discriminate against it.
But now that it boasts one of television’s largest audiences, Netflix isn’t spending much time worrying about the demise of the government rules that once protected it.
With millions of subscribers still flocking to its service, Netflix figures internet providers are unlikely to do anything that might alienate large numbers of their own customers who also turn to Netflix for trendy shows such as “Stranger Things,” ”The Crown and “Black Mirror.”
“Netflix’s fortress is so strong now that net neutrality has become background noise for them,” says GBH Insights analyst Daniel Ives.
The Trump-era Federal Communications Commission officially repealed net-neutrality rules in mid-December. Those regulations barred internet providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from slowing or blocking customer access to apps and sites, or from setting up paid “fast lanes” for favored companies. The rules have been a big deal for smaller startups, as Netflix used to be.
But now Netflix has more than 117 million subscribers worldwide, including nearly 55 million in the U.S., according to the company’s fourth-quarter earnings report, released Monday. The service picked up 8.3 million of those worldwide subscribers — a quarterly record — in the October-December period last year. That included a gain of 2 million in the U.S.
The performance blew past the projections of Netflix’s own management and stock market analysts. It was especially striking given a 10 percent price increase on the company’s most popular subscription plan in the U.S.
Investors apparently aren’t much worried about the end of net neutrality, either. The company’s stock soared 8 percent to $246.11 in Monday’s extended trading. That positions Netflix’s market value to surpass $100 billion for the first time in Tuesday’s regular trading session.
Emboldened by its success, Netflix now plans to spend up to $8 billion on its programming line-up this year, up from $6 billion last year.
“Our goal is to entertain people,” Netflix wrote Monday. “We are thrilled to be able to do that at great scale.”