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Netflix has seen a cliff-edge drop in the number of new subscribers in 2021 when compared to the preceding year, as competitors muscle their way into the market.

The streaming company added 18.2 million members last year, roughly half the number who subscribed in 2020.

In a statement announcing its forecast for 2022, Netflix admitted that “while retention and engagement remain healthy, acquisition growth has not yet re-accelerated to pre-COVID levels”, blaming COVID overhang and “macro-economic hardship” in places like Latin America.

It said it expected to add around 2.5 million members in the first quarter of the year, well below investors’ expectations. In the last quarter of 2021, subscribers grew by 8.3 million.

The company nonetheless maintained that there is room to grow as more people turn away from traditional television services.

How exactly this growing market will be split between Netflix and other operators in the sector remains to be seen, as Disney, Apple, Amazon and HBO continue to grow their offering.

Netflix admitted that “competition that has only intensified over the last 24 months as entertainment companies all around the world develop their own streaming offering”.

“While this added competition may be affecting our marginal growth some, we continue to grow in every country and region in which these new streaming alternatives have launched.”

It has been 25 years since Microsoft founder Bill Gates penned his famous essay, Content Is King, and the maxim holds true for the streaming revolution, with Netflix spending billions of dollars to develop content that keeps viewers hooked.

The satire Don’t Look Up has been a recent major success for the firm, becoming the second most popular film ever for the company despite being released less than two months ago.

Netflix saw its revenue increas by 16 per cent for October, November and December, compared to the same period a year earlier, hitting $7.7bn. Quarterly profits increased 12 per cent to $607m.

For the year, profits jumped from $2.7bn to $5.1bn, while revenue grew by 19 per cent to $26.7bn.

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