Netflix surpassed expectations in the first quarter of 2013 by adding more than 2 million new subscribers to its video streaming service. It now boasts 29.2 million domestic subscribers, which for the first time puts it ahead of HBO, with 28.7 million.
Accordingly, the company's shares jumped 25% in after-hours trading on Monday, in a year when its shares were already up 88% in 2013 before the end of Monday trading. According to CNNMoney, if things hold steady during regular trading on Tuesday, Netflix would see year-to-date gains of 135%, making the company the highest-performing stock in the S&P 500.
The jump in subscribers coincided with the launch of "House of Cards", an original series starring Kevin Spacey that reportedly cost $100 million for two seasons. The decision to launch all episodes of the series played into users' habits of "marathon" viewing, and created significant media buzz around the company.
While Netflix expects its subscriber growth to slow in the second quarter, adding only between 230,000 to 800,000 U.S. customers, the company's bet on original content appears to be paying off, and viewers can expect to see more original content - including the recent debut of original series "Hemlock Grove", and a new season of the resurrected "Arrested Development", launching in May.
As Netflix's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, put it recently, "the goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us."