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Dec 16, 2019

Netflix details Canadian revenue and subscriber numbers in filing

Amanda Lang: Netflix's popularity is no reason to give it an unfair advantage


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TORONTO - Netflix pulled back the curtain on new financial details Monday that reveal how many Canadians subscribe to the service and how much they pay the streaming giant.

The Los Gatos, Calif.-based company raked in US$593 million (C$780 million) of revenue from Canada during the first nine months of the 2019 financial year, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

That compares to Canadian revenues of US$635 million (C$835 million) in the full 12-month period of 2018, and US$508 million (C$668 million) during 2017.

Over the most recent nine-month period, average revenue per user reached US$12.36 across North America.

Those figures could add heat to the debate over Netflix not paying domestic revenue taxes. Some critics have argued Netflix is drawing viewers away from homegrown TV programming while injecting very little cultural content into the media landscape.

Under the current laws, foreign digital services, which include the streaming platform, also do not collect federal goods and service tax (GST) or a combined federal-provincial sales tax known as HST. The exceptions are Quebec and Saskatchewan, both of which enacted a provincial sales tax on Netflix earlier this year.

The documents filed by the streaming company also show 6.5 million paid subscribers were using its services in Canada as of Sept. 30 - an increase of 200,000 paid accounts from the end of 2018.

In 2017, Netflix committed to spending C$500 million over five years on TV and film productions in Canada, a pledge the company said earlier this year it has already surpassed.

Netflix has vowed to be more forthcoming with quarterly details of its business as it expands its presence globally. The company's fuller disclosures could also assure investors of its competitiveness in the increasingly crowded streaming market.

The company intends to report quarterly revenue and membership figures by region starting with its fourth-quarter earnings report in January. The markets will be divided into four regions - Asia-Pacific; Latin America; Europe, the Middle East & Africa; and U.S. and Canada - with Canadians representing roughly 10 per cent of its North American business.

“Under this new reporting format, we'll only provide membership guidance for global paid memberships for the next quarter with each earnings report,” it said in a statement.

Netflix also plans to offer internal viewership figures on more of its original film and TV projects, which include “Stranger Things,” “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story.”

Those details will come in handy as prognosticators consider the dominant streaming company's position against some of its biggest rivals, including Amazon Prime Video, and the newly launched Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus.

Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously reported that only Quebec charges a tax on streaming services. In fact, Saskatchewan also imposed a PST on Netflix earlier this year.