Netflix Adds 2.4 Million Subscribers, Reversing a Decline

Netflix, which has about 223 million subscribers worldwide, will soon introduce a lower-priced service with ads in a bid to attract more customers.

Netflix said Tuesday that it added more than 2.4 million subscribers in the third quarter — mainly from outside the United States — snapping a streak of customer losses this year that spurred unease among investors and questions about how much more the streaming business could grow.

The streaming giant said it now has 223 million subscribers worldwide, after beating its earlier forecast of about one million additions for the quarter. Netflix lost 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, and nearly one million in the second.

“After a challenging first half, we believe we’re on a path to re-accelerate growth,” Netflix said in its quarterly letter to shareholders. “The key is pleasing members.”

Netflix is preparing to introduce advertising on its service on Nov. 3, part of a bid to attract more customers with a lower-cost subscription. The advertising-supported tier, priced at $6.99 a month in the United States, will show subscribers four to five minutes of ads per hour of content they watch.

Netflix generated about $7.9 billion in revenue in the third quarter, a nearly 6 percent increase from the same period last year. The company generated about $1.4 billion in profit, a 3 percent decrease from a year earlier.

Netflix shares jumped more than 10 percent after the results were announced.

Netflix said in its letter to shareholders that it expected to add 4.5 million subscribers in the fourth quarter, a 46 percent decrease from the 8.3 million subscribers it added during the same period last year. Netflix also said it would stop providing guidance to investors on its projected subscriber count beginning next quarter.

Rich Greenfield, an analyst for Lightshed Partners, said the results indicated that Netflix would flourish as competitors continue to lag behind.

“I think the reports of streaming’s death or maturity have been greatly exaggerated,” Mr. Greenfield said.

The decision to introduce an advertising option on Netflix was an about-face for the company, which for years had highlighted its ad-free experience as a selling point for customers. But this year, after announcing subscriber losses on the company’s first-quarter earnings call, the co-chief executive Reed Hastings reversed course , saying that an advertising-supported plan would allow customers to choose their experience.

Streaming has become an increasingly competitive industry in recent years. Disney, for instance, reported in August that it had about 221 million subscriptions across its bundle of services. It will start offering a lower-priced advertising tier for Disney+ in December.

Mr. Hastings expressed relief about the company’s financial results during a video interview conducted by an analyst that was posted by Netflix on Tuesday evening.

“Well, thank God we’re done with shrinking quarters,” Mr. Hastings said, laughing.

Netflix is breaking with convention in other ways this fall. The company plans to release “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” in 600 theaters across the United States for one week beginning on Nov. 23 ahead of its streaming debut, the first time the company has struck a deal with the nation’s largest theater chains at once. The movie, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is the anticipated follow-up to the 2019 hit starring Daniel Craig as the Delphic detective Benoit Blanc.

Netflix told employees this year that it was also planning to crack down on password sharing, which allows users to watch content without paying for a subscription. The research firm MoffettNathanson estimates that 16 percent of Netflix users share passwords, more than any other major U.S. streaming service. Netflix said in April that passwords were being shared with an additional 100 million households, according to its estimate.

The company has also cracked down on costs. In May, Netflix laid off about 150 workers across the company, primarily in the United States, or about 2 percent of its total work force. Netflix said in a statement that the cuts had been spurred by the company’s slower revenue growth.

Despite the changes, Netflix hasn’t yet been able to reverse a precipitous decline in its share price. The company’s stock has tumbled more than 60 percent over the last year amid a broader market slump, as investors and analysts grapple with the economics of streaming video.

During the third quarter, Netflix released a mix of films and TV shows, including “The Gray Man,” a big-budget action film starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans and directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the sibling filmmakers behind “Avengers: Infinity War.” Other popular titles included the serial killer show “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”; the romantic drama “Purple Hearts”; and “Stranger Things,” which released the second half of Season 4 near the end of last quarter.