If you didn’t know, Netflix is kind of huge. So huge in fact that some new analysis suggests that if Netflix was a Nielsen-rated TV network, the service would, sometime within a year, attain a larger 24-hour audience than ABC, Fox, NBC or Fox. That’s something Nielsen itself should probably be tracking, but as we’ve noted previously, Nielsen has painfully-lagged on actually tracking the cord cutting revolution, for fear of upsetting cable and broadcast executives with their heads planted squarely in the sand.

The analysts at FBR Capital Markets note that Netflix served 10 billion hours of Internet video content in the first quarter of the year, roughly two hours per subscriber per day. By dividing this two-hour figure by 24 hours, then multiplying it by the number of U.S. Netflix subscribers as a percentage of households, the analysts estimate Netflix would see a Q1 ratings score of 2.6, on par with both ABC and NBC. The difference of course is that Netflix is growing quickly while traditional cable broadcasters are losing market share, especially on the kids programming front.

Of course the fact Nielsen can’t join the modern era and track TV viewing over the Internet quite yet suggests this isn’t quite yet an apples to apples comparison:

“One major caveat: Nielsen TV ratings cover, at most, up to seven days of VOD and DVR viewing — and exclude online-video views, which networks say are an increasing part of the pie. Moreover, TV networks provide a different blend of content, such as live sports, that Netflix doesn’t. And anyway, Netflix doesn’t care about “ratings” of individual shows, given that it doesn’t sell ads and has steadfastly refused to disclose anything but general data about viewing.”

Except Variety may overstate this, since the cable industry’s “TV Everywhere” initiative (which lets users watch cable content on their iPads and other devices in the hopes of keeping them from cutting the cord) is a bit of a dud. Cable video on demand viewing has been in the toilet for some time as well. And while Sports is where cable still outshines Internet video (for now), the cable and broadcast apparatus isn’t helping its case by failing to improve customer service, yet relentlessly driving up rates in the face of this increased competition. As such, people generally like Netflix’s value proposition more:

“Another data point called out by FBR’s analysts: When consumers were asked if they had to choose between Netflix and a cable or satellite TV subscription, 57% picked Netflix, with 43% opting for pay TV, according to a survey FBR conducted with ClearVoice Research in April. “Netflix subscribers clearly like it more than pay TV, which we see as arguing for pricing leverage, since pay TV, on average, costs over $80 per month,” the analysts wrote, citing Netflix’s average $8 price point.”

And things are going to get worse. Netflix is already leading the charge toward 4K and HDR content, something the cable industry (and especially the telcos using fiber to the node or DSL) won’t have the bandwidth to deliver for years. And while the cable industry loses subscribers slowly to cord cutting, Netflix is busy growing internationally, with plans to offer service in 200 different countries by the end of this year. Apparently, burying your head in the sand and pretending cord cutting wasn’t real didn’t magically stop the future from arriving anyway. Who knew?


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