Netflix is holding its ground in the streaming wars, passing its first big test since Apple and Disney launched rival services.
The company added 8.8 million worldwide subscribers during its fourth quarter, surpassing expectations at a time when it faces heated competition.
Netflix had said it expected to add 7.6 million subscribers, and analysts thought the service would fare even better. The increase pales slightly next to the 8.9 million subscribers the service added in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The stock dropped about 2.5% immediately in after-hours trading, likely due to a cautious forecast for the first quarter. But shares rebounded and later traded up more than 2%.
The company — a pioneer in producing streaming media and binge-worthy shows — now boasts more than 167 million subscribers worldwide, bolstered by a list of well-received movies and shows released late last year. That includes the fantasy show "The Witcher" and Oscar nominees "The Irishman" and "Marriage Story."
The boost helps reaffirm Netflix's strong standing in the increasingly crowded world of video streaming. The fourth quarter was an important milestone for Netflix, as it was marked its first head-to-head competition with Apple's $5-per-month streaming service and Disney's instantly popular $7-a-month option.
Still, it's unlikely to be a smooth road for Netflix. NBC, HBO and startup Quibi are all planning to launch new streaming services soon.
Two big questions loom: How much are consumers willing to pay for each video streaming option? And how many will they pay for before reaching subscription fatigue?
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings acknowledged the increased competition in a call following earnings, but said he believes the services are mostly capturing new viewers who are transitioning from traditional TV watching.
"It takes away a little bit from us," he said of the Disney Plus launch. "But again, most of the growth in the future is coming out of linear TV."
Netflix has one major advantage over competitors: it has been collecting data on the shows viewers crave for years.
"Netflix's scale allows it to reach mass audiences, which makes it easier for them to create hits when compared to newcomers to the market," EMarketer analyst Eric Haggstrom said.
Netflix's most popular plan costs $13 a month, far more than competitors from Disney, Apple and Quibi. But its price is comparable to HBO Now, and it boasts one of the largest libraries of TV shows and movies, not to mention regularly updated original shows.
Hastings reiterated that Netflix isn't interested in introducing ads. Noting that the digital advertising market is dominated by companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, he said, "there's not easy money there."
It's also less controversial to avoid digital advertising and the scrutiny around companies making customers' personal information that comes with it, he said.
In its quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix included a chart of Google search trends that showed people searching more often for "The Witcher" than for competing shows including "The Mandalorian," "The Morning Show" and "Jack Ryan," from Disney, Apple and Amazon, respectively.
In the U.S., Netflix added 420,000 subscribers, below its own estimates. Growth in its home country has been slowing in the last year, partly because most people in the U.S. who want Netflix already subscribe.
The company reported profit of $587 million on revenue of $5.47 billion, exceeding expectations.
Netflix said it expects to add 7 million subscribers during the first three months of this year, well below the 9.6 million subscribers it added in the first quarter last year.
Additional U.S. troops have been flown out of Iraq for closer evaluation of potential concussion injuries from the Iranian missile attack of Jan. 8, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.
The exact number of troops flown to Germany was not immediately clear, but officials said it was a small number. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because some details were still being sorted out. Last week, 11 U.S. service members were flown from Iraq to U.S. medical facilities in Germany and Kuwait for further evaluation of concussion-like symptoms.
Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East, confirmed the additional evacuations but did not say how many were included.
"As medical treatment and evaluations in theater continue, additional service members have been identified as having potential injuries," Urban said Tuesday evening. "These service members — out of an abundance of caution — have been transported to Landstuhl, Germany, for further evaluations and necessary treatment on an outpatient basis. Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future."
As recently as last Tuesday night, President Donald Trump said he had been told no American had been harmed in the Iranian missile strike. The question of American casualties was especially significant at the time because the missile attack's results were seen as influencing a U.S. decision on whether to retaliate and risk a broader war with Iran.
Trump chose not to retaliate, and the tensions with Iran have eased somewhat.
In the days following the Iranian attack, medical screening determined that some who took cover during the attack were suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
No one was killed in the attack on Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq. The strike was launched in retaliation for a U.S. drone missile strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the most powerful military general in Iran, on Jan. 3 at Baghdad International Airport.
Prosecutors in western Mexico have called in 53 local police for questioning in the Jan. 14 disappearance of a long-time promoter and protector of the wintering grounds of the monarch butterfly.
The police in the Michaocan towns of Angangueo and Ocampo were called in late Monday after the head of the management council of the El Rosario butterfly reserve vanished.
Prosecutors did not specify what made them suspect the police might have information on the whereabouts of Homero Gómez. Activists worry that Gómez' disappearance could be related to retaliation by illegal loggers.
Michoacan state police took over protecting the two towns while the local police were away.
Gómez is a former communal land officer who has led efforts to preserve the pine and fir forests where the butterflies spend the winter.
He posted his last video of himself in the El Rosario reserve Jan. 13, encouraging tourists to visit the reserve.
Monarchs need healthy tree cover to protect them rain or cold weather in the pine and fir mountaintop forests in Mexico where they spend the winter.
Millions of monarchs make the 3,400-mile (5,500-kilometer) migration from the United States and Canada, and then return, each year, though no single butterfly lives to make the complete trip.
Mexico has clamped down on illegal logging, which was once a major threat to the reserves but which has fallen to about one-third last year's level.
An Iranian student attending college in Boston was denied entry to the U.S. and ordered to immediately fly back to his native country, despite a court order temporarily staying his removal, immigration lawyers and civil rights groups said Tuesday.
Shahab Dehghani, a 24-year-old economics student at Northeastern University, arrived in Boston with a valid student visa but was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol at Logan International Airport, according to his lawyer Kerry Doyle.
Customs officials ordered Dehghani, whose full name is listed as Mohammad Shahab Dehghani Hossein Abadi on federal court filings, to leave on the next available flight because they determined he was intending to reside in the U.S. longer than his temporary student visa allowed, Doyle said.
Dehghani's lawyers reject that claim. They say he had attended the University of Massachusetts Boston before transferring to Northeastern, had undergone a nearly one-year visa review and planned to return to Iran when he completed his studies.
"He's understandably upset," said Heather Yountz, a lawyer also involved in Dehghani's case. "He's been a student here in Massachusetts for two years. His life has now been turned around."
Customs and Border Patrol declined to comment on specifics but said each person seeking entry to the country has the burden to prove they can overcome "all grounds of inadmissibility," including "health-related grounds, criminality, security reasons, public charge, labor certification, illegal entrants and immigration violations, documentation requirements, and miscellaneous grounds."
While he was at the airport Monday, Dehghani's attorneys filed an emergency lawsuit seeking to hold off his removal, which a federal judge quickly approved, pending a court hearing Tuesday.
But Judge Richard Stearns on Tuesday said the case was moot and out of his jurisdiction because Dehghani ended up flying out of the U.S. that night.
Doyle confirmed Dehghani took a flight to Paris on Monday but disputed the judge's assertions.
She also challenged federal prosecutors who argued Dehghani was removed from the country before the emergency order was issued. Doyle a rgued he was still at the airport at the time the judge issued the temporary stay , suggesting customs officials violated the order.
She said her client intends to fight the case and will weigh his legal options.
Northeastern University said it has also been in touch with federal officials to try and get Dehghani back to Boston for his classes.
"We still have not received a satisfactory explanation from Customs and Border Protection for this action," the university said late Tuesday. "Only in the most extreme instances should students have their academic pursuits interrupted by government intervention."
Doyle and other immigrant rights activists say Dehghani's case is the latest example of customs officials at Logan Airport ignoring court orders since President Donald Trump issued a ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries in 2017, including Iran.
Since August, at least 10 students have been sent back to Iran upon arrival at U.S. airports. Seven had flown into Logan, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which is also assisting Dehghani.
"We feel the Iranian community has been unfortunately targeted," Doyle said. "We're hearing many reports, especially at the Boston port of entry, of Iranian students and other individuals being subjected to increased and severe interrogation at secondary inspections."
Civil rights groups and lawmakers complained this month to federal officials after Iranian Americans said they had been questioned for hours at the Canadian border in Washington state in the days after U.S. forces killed a top Iranian general and the Trump administration feared retaliation from Iran.
Hamed Yarmand was among more than two dozen people who rallied outside of Boston federal court Tuesday in support of Dehghani.
Yarmand, who is Iranian American, said he was one of Dehghani's professors at UMass Boston and described him as a good student who was involved in school activities.
"It's not fair," Yarmand said. "President Trump says he supports the Iranian people. But how does that work, with these sanctions and this travel ban? There seems to be a contradiction with what he says and what this administration is doing in practice."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly eased his restrictive proposed rules for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial , backing off the condensed two-day schedule to add a third for opening arguments after protests from senators, including Republicans.
The trial quickly burst into a partisan fight at the Capitol as the president's lawyers opened arguments Tuesday in support of McConnell's plan. Democrats objected loudly to McConnell's initially proposed rules, and some Republicans made their concerns known in private at a GOP lunch.
Without comment, the Republican leader quietly submitted an amended proposal after meeting behind closed doors with his senators as the trial opened. The handwritten changes would a dd the extra day and allow House evidence to be included in the record. There is still deep disagreement about calling additional witnesses.
"It's time to start with this trial," said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the president's lead lawyer in brief remarks as the proceedings opened in public.
"It's a fair process," he said. "There is absolutely no case."
Chief Justice John Roberts gaveled open the session, senators having taken an oath last week to do "impartial justice" as jurors. House House prosecutors were on one side, Trump's team on the other, in the well of the Senatem as senators sat silent at their desks.
Senators were stunned by McConnell's shift, and aides offered no immediate answers.
But a spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Susan Collins said that she and others had raised concerns. The Maine senator sees the changes as significant improvements, said spokeswoman Annie Clark.
The turnaround was a swift lesson as the White House's wishes run into the reality of the Senate. The White House wanted a session crammed into a shorter period to both expedite the trial and shift more of the proceedings into late night, according to a person familiar with the matter but unauthorized to discuss it in public.
"READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!" the president tweeted from miles away, as he returned to his hotel at a global leaders conference in Davos, Switzerland. That's the transcript of his phone call in which he asked new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiya for "a favor." The Democrats cite that transcript as solid evidence against Trump, though he repeatedly describes it as "perfect."
Democrats had warned that the rules package from Trump's ally, the Senate GOP leader, could force midnight sessions that would keep most Americans in the dark and create a sham proceeding.
"This is not a process for a fair trial, this is the process for a rigged trial" Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Ca., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the prosecution, told reporters. He called it a "cover-up."
Schiff opened his arguments before the Senate playing a video of Trump calling for more witnesses to testify. Schiff noted the sudden change in proposed rules, made moments before he spoke.
"The facts will come out in the end," Schiff said. "The question is, will it come out in time? "
McConnell said, "The president's lawyers will finally receive a level playing field," contrasting it with the House impeachment inquiry.
The rare impeachment trial, unfolding in an election year, is testing whether Trump's actions toward Ukraine warrant removal at the same time that voters are forming their own verdict on his White House.
Just weeks before the first Democratic primary contests, four senators who are also presidential candidates were off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.
"My focus is going to be on impeachment," Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent running for the Democratic nomination, told reporters. He said his supporters would keep working "to defeat the most dangerous president in American history."
The Democrats say the prospect of middle-of-the-night proceedings, without allowing new witnesses or even the voluminous House records of the trial, would leave the public without crucial information about Trump's political pressure campaign on Ukraine and the White House's obstruction of the House impeachment probe.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, the Judiciary Committee Chairman also leading the House team, said: "There's no trial in this country where you wouldn't admit relative witnesses."
Trump's legal team doesn't dispute Trump's actions — that he called the Ukraine president and asked for a "favor" during a July 25 phone call. In fact, the lawyers included the rough transcript of Trump's conversation as part of its 110-page trial brief submitted ahead of the proceedings.
Instead the lawyers for the president, led Cipollone and a TV-famous legal team including Alan Dershowitz, say the two charges against the president don't amount to impeachable offenses and Trump committed no crime.
Legal scholars have long insisted the framers of the Constitution provided impeachment as a remedy for "other high crimes and misdemeanors," a particularly broad definition that doesn't mean simply specific criminal acts.
Democrats in prosecuting the case against the president point in particular to a General Accountability Office report that found the White House violated federal law by stalling money to Ukraine that had been approved by Congress.
House Democrats, responding Tuesday to arguments by Trump's legal team, said the president's legal filing confirmed that "his misconduct is indefensible."
They wrote, "President Trump's lengthy brief to the Senate is heavy on rhetoric and procedural grievances, but entirely lacks a legitimate defense of his misconduct." The president would "rather discuss anything other than what he actually did," the Democrats wrote.
Roberts administered the oath to one remaining senator, James Inhofe, who was attending a family medical issue in Oklahoma last week when the other senators vowed the oath and signed the oath book.
Also Tuesday, the House Democratic managers overseeing the impeachment case asked Cipollone, the president's lead lawyer at the trial, to disclose any "first-hand knowledge" he has of the charges against Trump. They said evidence gathered so far indicates that Cipollone is a "material witness" to the allegations at hand.
House Democrats impeached the Republican president last month on two charges: abuse of power by withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and obstruction of Congress by refusing to cooperate with their investigation.
No president has ever been removed from office by the Senate. With its 53-47 Republican majority, the Senate is not expected to mount the two-thirds voted needed for conviction. Even if it did, the White House team argues it would be an "'unconstitutional conviction'' because the articles of impeachment were too broad.