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Netflix hits 125 million subscribers

Netflix said Monday it added more than 8 million net subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2017, marking the strongest quarterly subscription gains in its history.

Even a price hike can’t slow Netflix down.

Netflix added 7.4 million subscribers in the first three months of 2018, up 50% from the same quarter a year earlier, the company reported on Monday. It now has 125 million subscribers.

The vast majority of the new subscribers, nearly 5.5 million, came from outside the United States as Netflix continues to gain ground in international markets.

The strong subscriber growth came in well ahead of Wall Street’s estimates, helping send Netflix stock up 6% in after-hours trading Monday.

Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, called Netflix’s earnings results “eye popping” in an investor note.

“It shows the company’s aggressive international expansion strategy is bearing fruit and putting major fuel in the company’s growth engine for the rest of 2018 and beyond,” Ives wrote.

Expectations were high heading into Netflix’s earnings report. While several leading tech companies have stumbled this year amid regulatory concerns, Netflix stock has soared 60% on optimism for its original content strategy.

During the first quarter of this year, Netflix launched 18 original series, 11 new seasons for existing original series, and 14 new original movies, according to Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush.

The lineup included a new season of “Jessica Jones,” a reboot of “Queer Eye” and the launch of a new talk show from David Letterman, which kicked off with an interview with former President Barack Obama.

Netflix expects to have 700 programs available for customers in 2018, according to CFO David Wells.

None of that has come cheap. The company expects to spend as much as $8 billion on shows and movies this year, up from $6 billion in 2017, according to the earnings report.

Netflix has now committed $17.9 billion to streaming content deals, up from $15.3 billion a year earlier. It also reportedly coughed up $300 million to hire Ryan Murphy, the power producer behind “Glee.”

To help cover its mounting costs, Netflix hiked prices by 10% in the final quarter of 2017, to $10.99 a month for the standard service. Yet, the company’s subscriber growth continues to be trending in the right direction.

Netflix expects to add 6.2 million subscribers in the upcoming quarter, which would also come in above Wall Street estimates.

Still, Netflix continues to face stiff competition. Apple is ramping up its investments in original content. Amazon is rumored to be willing to drop $1 billion on a single TV show. Even Facebook is pushing deeper into video content. (Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings sits on its board).

The belief among analysts like Deutsche Bank’s Brian Kraft is that Netflix has too much of a head start to lose now.

“Netflix has changed the industry in a profound way and in doing so has given itself a significant lead, making it very difficult for the traditional media companies, or even other big tech companies, to catch up,” Kraft wrote last week.