It’s rare that there’s something interesting to say about quarterly earnings calls, but July provided not one, but two exceptions. Both Yahoo and Netflix hosted live video earnings conference calls in place of their usual telephonic calls. In a world dominated by web cams and streaming video, it’s easy to imagine that we will begin to see this more and more.

Yahoo’s July 16th video followed a more traditional route. CEO Marissa Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman sat behind what appeared to be a news anchor desk with a screen behind them on which financial slides were shown as they summarized the company’s second quarter. Then, they answered questions phoned in by analysts, whose names and affiliations appeared on screen during the call. It was a thoroughly staged, highly polished presentation that could have competed well with a CNN panel discussion.

In contrast, and perhaps more interestingly to mid-size public companies, was Netflix’ video earnings call on July 22nd. CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells appeared to be sitting at their desks in front of separate web cams as they spoke. After leading off with a brief explanatory introduction in which he used a “fireside chat” analogy, Mr. Hastings simply turned to call over to CNBC media reporter Julie Boorstin and BTIG research analyst Rick Greenfield, who asked questions, without attribution, complied from the previous submissions of investors, analysts and the media. There was no formal financial presentation, and the Q&A lasted almost 40 minutes before Mr. Hastings somewhat summarily ended the call. Netflix’ decision to use a webcast technique is not surprising in the sense that they’ve been at the leading edge of social media disclosure for a while. (See this June 19th Doug’s Note and John Jaye’s related video.)

Here are some observations:

  • Both companies filed Item 2.02 8-Ks with typical earnings information, including non-GAAP reconciliations, on the date of the video call.
  • Each call started with a verbal forward-looking statement disclaimer.
  • Video presenters will need to be circumspect with body language, facial expressions, etc. so as not to inadvertently convey unintended information.
  • Likewise, you’ll need to be careful with the use of charts, graphs and other images since they will take on heightened importance in a video presentation. The need to properly balance marketing goals with securities disclosure concerns will be even more acute.
  • For companies that perceive a marketing advantage to appearing tech savvy, this would be an interesting way to do so.
  • There’s probably a middle ground between Yahoo (very slick and expensive looking) and Netflix (a little too causal) that would work better for most mid-size companies if this technique gains traction.

Although we’re probably a long way away from this becoming the middle market norm for earnings calls, it may soon move from novel to commonplace and is worth keeping an eye on.