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Netflix: Hulu Didn’t Hurt Us, Disney and Apple Streaming Services Will Create ‘Modest Headwind’

Netflix HQ LA
Michael Buckner for Variety

Netflix tried to downplay any pressure it may be feeling from the launch of Disney’s and Apple’s upcoming video subscription services Wednesday, declaring in its latest letter to shareholders that the new services may only cause “modest headwind to (the company’s) near-term growth.”

“Many are focused on the ‘streaming wars,’ but we’ve been competing with streamers (Amazon, YouTube, Hulu) as well as linear TV for over a decade,” the company wrote in the Q3 earning shareholder letter. “The upcoming arrival of services like Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Peacock is increased competition, but we are all small compared to linear TV.”

The company tried to make the case for rising tides by pointing to one of its existing competitors: “Our growth in Canada, where Hulu does not exist, is nearly identical to our growth in the US,” it said, adding a chart to map out the growth in both countries:

Netflix growth chart

Based on these past observations, Netflix tired to make the bull case for streaming overall: “Streaming video services have mostly exclusive content libraries that make them highly differentiated from one another,” the company declared in its shareholder letter. “In our view, the likely outcome from the launch of these new services will be to accelerate the shift from linear TV to on demand consumption of entertainment.”

The shareholder letter likened the proliferation of new streaming services to the emergence of cable networks like USA, TBS, ESPN and Discovery in the heydays of cable. These networks, it argued, “didn’t take much audience share from each other, but instead, they collectively took audience share from broadcast viewing.”

On the earnings front, Netflix fell short of its subscriber forecast for the quarter, but beat Wall Street’s profit expectations.

On Wednesday, the company tried to downplay slowing domestic growth as noise, assuring investors that its massive original content investments were unrivaled. “We did well during the first decade of streaming. We’ve been preparing for this new wave of competition for a long time,” the company said in its letter to investors.