High drama

Netflix brings live-streaming to a new medium: the company earnings call

July 9, 2013
July 9, 2013

The typical company earnings call is hardly primetime entertainment. Executives trot out jargon-laden statements carefully honed for their non-committal blandness, while analysts vie with each other to ask the most technical questions they can about the most recondite parts of the company’s business, all on a conference-call line that makes the speakers sound as if they’re sitting under a bathtub.

But video streaming service Netflix is the latest company that’s decided to shake up the format. Instead of doing a conference call, it will talk about its earnings on July 22 in a live video discussion. And instead of being chaperoned by a company official, the Netflix earnings talk will be moderated by BTIG Research analyst Rich Greenfield and CNBC reporter Julia Boorstin. Questions can be submitted to them on email at rgreenfield@btig.com and Julia.boorstin@nbcuni.com, or Twitter on @RichBTIG and @JBoorstin.

Netflix said the aim of the new format was to make the earnings report more transparent and informative. Transparency was also the reason given by online real-estate company Zillow, which in May answered questions through Twitter and Facebook for its first earnings release as a public company. It still held a traditional conference call, but executives took questions not only from the usual analysts, but also from journalists and others.

The moves come after the US Securities and Exchange Commission in April relaxed its rules and said companies can use social media to disseminate market-moving information, as long as investors have been told which outlet will be used. The prompt for that change came after Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, set off an SEC investigation by using his Facebook page to make an announcement about the company’s traffic. But companies haven’t flocked to Twitter or Facebook for earnings events, partly because there is still some uncertainty (paywall) about the exact rules for using them.

But as companies like Zillow and Netflix set the precedents, others will likely become more comfortable with the practice. Nielsen Holdings, the media ratings provider, has yet to use social media during its earnings releases, but its investor relations department uses its Twitter account to distribute information about the company.

It will be interesting to see if Twitter will use Twitter during its earnings calls whenever it eventually goes public. Facebook, which went public last year, has yet to use Facebook for that purpose. For its second-quarter results on July 24, the company will stick to a traditional conference call.

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