Netflix Closing in on Total Viewership Numbers as Cable Networks Shake in Their Boots

by Mark Stone | Technology

Are you sick of seeing the same old stale ideas from the big cable networks invading our TV screens?

It’s rather amusing to think about how many man hours went into the entire process from concept to development to production for such abject failures like Ironside, Dads, Killer Women, and Bad Teacher. In Hollywood, getting a pilot made—let alone having it go into production—is incredibly difficult. Of the tens of thousands of TV pilot scripts a network has to choose from only a few make it on the air. Yet year after year, most of them fail.

The pay cable networks like HBO and Showtime have a much better track record, but TV fans still have to shell out a plentitude of pesos to partake in those programs. But what about Netflix? When it comes to total number of viewer hours, can the all-you-can-watch streaming service already be the Mothra to the big cable network Godzilla?

In a Netflix numbers disclosure Monday, Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt revealed that Netflix transmitted 6.5 billion hours (yes, that’s billion with a "B") of content globally in the first quarter of 2014, up 18% vs last year. BTIG Analyst Richard Greenfield did some number crunching Tuesday and came up with some very troubling figures for the major broadcast networks. Using total monthly viewer hours as a benchmark, Greenfield—a Netflix-entrusted analyst the company uses to raise and moderate questions at its quarterly earnings presentations—calculates 1.8 billion viewing hours per month. Although there are no current network figures to compare to, he uses 2013‘s first quarter numbers: CBS with 3.3 billion viewing hours per month, followed by ABC at 2.6B, NBC at 2.3B and Fox at 1.9B.


RELATED: Netflix Accounts for More Than One-Third of Internet Traffic in Canada


Netflix is sure getting awfully close. Yes, it’s not exactly a fair comparison, as the service has such a vast library of content, comprised primarily of movies, to stream on demand. Yet Netflix is on a mission to produce original content and programming to rival the best of what broadcast networks are churning out. Shows like House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black (which launches all 13 episodes of its binge-worthy second season on June 6), Arrested Development and to a lesser extent Hemlock Grove have all proven to be wildly popular. In addition, subscribers can look forward to more original content this year with Sense8, Narcos, Marco Polo, and BoJack Horseman. House of Cards and Arrested Development even scored Emmy Nominations, further validating Netflix as a legitimate cable network.

In this war to win viewers, we have a classic case of old school vs. new school. In some cases, the tried and true methods of the past will survive; this is not one of those times. The broadcast networks, adopting the same system they’ve been running with since the days of Bonanza and Gilligan’s Island, are refusing to shake off the shackles of tradition. Netflix on the other hand seems to have a solid grasp of what viewers want, and are investing their resources into delivering it to them.

Netflix isn’t the only streaming service in the game either, with rivals like Hulu and Amazon shaking it up even more. And when (not if—it’s inevitable) Apple throws their hat into the all-you-can-view ring with whatever version of Apple TV is coming down the pipe, the broadcast networks will have no choice but to make Immediate. Drastic. Changes.

The cord cutter’s dream is still a dream. For now, there is obviously enough content from the big four networks to make most of us think twice before ditching our cable service. But digital is clearly the future, and these recent numbers confirm that Netflix has a massive head start.

In the race towards the pristine island overflowing with treasure chests of viewers’ cash present and future, one boat is oversized with too many captains and is weighed down with a heavy, rusty, 50-year old anchor. The other is speeding along with ease, the island appearing clearly on its radar. I wonder which boat is which.

Los Gatos, California, United States

With more than 15 million members, Netflix, Inc. [Nasdaq: NFLX] is the world’s largest subscription service streaming movies and TV episodes over the Internet and sending DVDs by mail. For $8.99 a month, Netflix members can instantly watch unlimited TV episodes and movies streamed to their TVs and computers and can receive unlimited DVDs delivered quickly to their homes. With Netflix, there are... more

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Mark Stone

Mark Stone

Before switching careers to writing, Mark spent many years in information technologywearing several hats, including five years as an Information Security Analyst with the provincial government in Manitoba. When Mark moved to Kelowna, he began writing columns about information security and realized he had a knack for writing. Mark wrote a fiction novel, which was published in 2008, and was also... more

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