Netflix Originals ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Watched by Fewer Than Half of Subs, Study Finds

Orange Is The New Black TCA

The vast majority of Netflix customers have heard about the streamer’s heavily hyped original series “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” — but a smaller number of them have actually watched either show.

Despite high awareness, fewer than half of Netflix users have ever watched one of the company’s two big originals, according to a new study from research and consulting firm Centris Marketing Science. Centris found that 44% of Netflix members have ever watched “OITNB,” while 31% said the same for “House of Cards.” Among Netflix subs, 94% have heard of “OITNB” and 89% have heard of “HoC” (while 72% of non-subscribers said they were aware of either series). For the study, Centris polled 562 U.S. households from July 17-20.

But hold on: Just because a minority of Netflix users have watched its two most prominent shows doesn’t mean they’re flops. After all, not everyone who watches, say, CBS tunes in to “The Big Bang Theory” and some AMC viewers never watch “The Walking Dead.” Indeed, U.S. TV viewers watch only 9% of the channels available to them, according to Nielsen.

Netflix refuses to disclose viewership figures for individual shows. Asked for comment on the Centris study, a Netflix rep said that “we are quite pleased with the popularity and critical acclaim of both shows.” Both “House of Cards” and “OITNB” are contenders in this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, with 13 and 12 nominations, respectively (with the former nommed for best drama series and the latter garnering one for best comedy series).

SEE ALSO: ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Piracy Soars for Season 2 Debut, But ‘House of Cards’ Was Bigger

It’s tough to compare traditional TV to the viewership figures for “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” as measured by Centris, which said its survey has a margin of error of 4.1%. But through a certain lens, Netflix’s originals stack up fairly well against HBO’s “Game of Thrones” — the cabler’s most-popular show ever.

Both “HoC” and “OITNB” recently launched second seasons. For the sake of comparison, season two of “Game of Thrones” in 2012 had an average gross audience of 11.6 million viewers — over the course of the entire season — across linear TV, DVR, on-demand and HBO Go. That’s as close as we can get to a metric reflecting the overall number of people who watched “GoT” season two on a regular basis, as it encompasses views across all platforms, and would represent in the neighborhood of 41% of HBO’s total subscriber base. So it’s possible Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” is performing as well as “GoT,” relatively speaking, at this stage. But it’s impossible to say for certain, given the limitations of the Centris study (which asked only whether subs had ever watched the shows, as opposed to an entire season) and because Netflix doesn’t report viewing metrics and doesn’t let third parties measure its service either.

In any case, as Netflix’s originals continue into their third seasons and possibly beyond, their audiences stand to continue to grow. Note that season four of “Game of Thrones” had an average gross audience of 18.6 million viewers, factoring in all viewing.

Netflix execs love to compare their service to HBO, portraying Netflix as a next-generation Internet TV network that is unshackled from the pay-TV ecosystem. On Wednesday, Netflix CEO and founder Reed Hastings noted in a Facebook post that Netflix’s second-quarter subscriber revenue of $1.5 billion surpassed HBO’s $1.4 billion in the same period.

“They still kick our ass in profits and Emmys” — the premium cable service notched 99 Emmy nominations vs. Netflix’s 31 — “but we are making progress. HBO rocks, and we are honored to be in the same league,” Hastings wrote. HBO operating income for Q2 was $548 million, versus $130 million for Netflix; for one thing, Netflix continues to invest heavily in overseas expansion.

Hastings added, parenthetically: “yes, I loved ‘Silicon Valley’ and yes it hit a little close to home.” For the record, he didn’t say if he watched the entire season of the HBO show — or just an episode or two.

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  1. Roger Owens says:

    “Orange…” is unwatchable. HoC is a good series but kinda lost me and make me puke a little with an improbably sex scene between Kevin Spacey, his chaffeur and his wife.

  2. Bard says:

    Both shows are highly overrated and full of cliches, bad writing and acting. Nowhere near the quality of some of HBO’s or even AMC’s series.

  3. ted says:

    Unfortunately, I’m noticing a few films are not INSINK with the footage

  4. Micheldeangelo says:


  5. Taguro Izumo says:

    I only have netflix for house of cards. If house of cards was elsewhere i honestly wouldnt bother.

    • Todd Spangler says:

      FWIW – Amazon sells DVDs of “House of Cards” (season 1 is $17.99; season 2 is $19.99). Although that’s more than 4 months of Netflix streaming service.

  6. Eric says:

    “For the study, Centris polled 562 U.S. households from July 17-20.”

    562? This is a joke, right? That is such a small sample size, there is no way the data is statistically accurate or significant.

  7. Steve says:

    According to Forbes, Netflix has more than 50 million subscribers.
    44% of 50 million would be 22 million viewers.

    For comparison:
    Mad Men’s most recent season had an average of 2.49 million viewers.
    Big Bang Theory, according to Vulture’s headline, gets 23.4 million viewers.

    OitNB’s actual ep-by-ep ratings are surely much lower than 22 million – but they could easily get “Mad Men” style.

    Why didn’t this article headline read, “22 million people have seen an episode of Orange is the New Black?”

    • Jack says:

      Because the negative spin is better click bait. Also attracts detractors and contention in the comments. Plus, it’s the Variety of today.

  8. Ken96 says:

    I have a Netflix account by which i recieve discs however, i once had a streaming plan. When i had the streaming plan, i very much enjoyed Netflix’s original shows and was an avid viewer. Then i moved just outside the city into a more rural area and though there are ISPs for the area, not the service i use or any other available offer unlimited internet access. The limits on data usage prevent anyone in this area from streaming movies or shows. It is very unfortunate and kind of ridiculous for this day and age. I wonder if Netflix could eventually look into this matter? If so, i’m sure subscriptions and viewership would increase! I know they would have at least one avid viewer ;-)

  9. Brock Samson says:

    562 Households. 50 million subscribers.


    • Todd Spangler says:

      Centris said the survey has a margin of error of 4.1%.

      • Amanda says:

        Todd, you do understand that 50 million (25 million watching Orange), is huge? Look at the actual numbers and remember, their margin of error is 4.2% which means around 25 million are actually watching.

      • Todd Spangler says:

        The Centris survey, as the article points out, asked only if Netflix subscribers have *ever* watched each of the shows (e.g., some portion of them conceivably watched one episode and that was all).

  10. Peter says:

    Figures never lie but liars always figure. Why doesn’t the headline read, almost half of Netflix subscribers have watched their original programming. Obviously this is not the NY Times, but was the writer expecting that all the subscribers had seen them? Has everyone that gets fox seen all their original programming. It strikes me that Netflix is doing just fine. Whether they are happy with their ratings or not, I doubt they will release them until there is a reason to. Right now programming is driving subscriber growth which is driving the stock. They don’t have advertisers and viewers (unless they are total lemmings) don’t check the Nielsen ratings to decide what to watch. Maybe they need to disclose their ratings in order to attract top talent. But last time I checked they had an Oscar winning director, writer and actor in House of Cards so that can’t be the reason. Is House of Cards a success. I guess that only matters to the management and shareholders of NF. Stock is up 80% over the last year so I bet they are happy. Longer term I think they need to churn out some profits, but they aren’t the first internet company to stake out some market share and worry about profits later. Amazon has been around for 20 years and skims in and out of tiny profits despite $75 billion in revenues. Bottom line, a lot of people subscribe to Netflix, the shows have good critical acclaim, this survey says a good chunk of subscribers have watched them and that’s it. Everything else is stuff we are making up.

    • Todd Spangler says:

      It’s not true that “almost half” of Netflix subscribers have seen their originals, according to this particular survey. There were 31% who said they’ve ever watched “House of Cards,” which is certainly not close to half, whereas 44% of respondents said they’ve watched “Orange Is the New Black.” But — as the article points out — the survey doesn’t indicate how many people may have watched entire seasons.

  11. nerdrage says:

    Half of subscribers sounds like a decent proportion! A lot of people subscribe just for movies, as an adjunct to regular TV, Hulu etc. There’s DVD subscribers, streaming and both – the libraries are very different. The thing about Netflix is, it doesn’t just serve one homogenous population all doing the same thing like everyone watching shows at the same time a la traditional TV. It’s a lot of niche markets all doing their own thing. For 50% of them to be doing the same thing is a large number! Think more like 20 groups of 5% each. And there will be more and more of that in the future.

  12. Sam says:

    How is the idea that 44% have watched one episode of OITNB more important than 41% who watch third season episodes of GoT? With aggregate viewing, GoT goes up to 19 million now. That’s more like 60% of subs. Watching the third season – meaning 60+% probably watched the pilot, too. That’s a lot better than 44%

  13. mattheww says:

    Pay services like HBO and now Netflix are more concerned with viewer satisfaction indexes than viewers. Basically it’s all about whether you feel you got your money’s worth at the end of every billing cycle. And weirdly, having the opportunity to watch the esteemed “House of Cards” is often worth more to a subscriber than the ability to watch the junky reality shows they actually viewed. Which is to say Netflix doesn’t necessarily care whether anyone watches their shows, so long as those people feel the opportunity to do so is worth ten bucks a month

  14. Cupertino Jay says:

    Folks oughta keep in mind there are two (or three) types of NF subscribers: 1) dvd, 2) streamers, 3) both. Granted dvd-only subscribers are a shrinking minority, but there remain millions of us. NF series start as streaming only. Then months or year later become accessible as disks. Dunno how we factor into the above analysis.

  15. Darrin says:

    I don’t think everyone wants to pay for another thing outside of cable. Neither of these shows really interest me, with all the things going on in this country with the government. I don’t need to watch House of Cards. As far as Orange is the New Black, it seems it is very popular with celebrities and critics just like House of Cards. From what I have read it has just about every politically correct type of character on the show. So of course they would get numerous nominations for Emmy’s.

    • Derp says:

      A growing number of people are eschewing cable altogether and going with hulu or netflix or both, also Amazon but I for one was turned off by not having a real sense of what was available to watch since so many shows and movies required an additional fee.

  16. Come on says:

    Nonsense. Total, absolute nonsense. If they had viewership that high, they would be shouting it from the hilltops. They would announce it on their earnings call, along with a full slate of new originals to send the stock into the heavens.

    It is doubtful that consumption habits (CVG %) on streaming platforms are any different than on MVPDs. I would seriously doubt if 5% of their subscribers have watched their originals.

    • Todd Spangler says:

      Netflix has said, affirmatively, that “Orange Is the New Black” is its most popular original series. They just haven’t disclosed specific figures (and won’t, because they don’t have to).

  17. Tvaddic says:

    Assuming that this survey remains true through out the country. 44% of Netflix’s 35 million subscribers would be 15 million viewers, and 39% of subscribers would be 13.6 million viewers. And huge success inin pay TV numbers

    • Todd Spangler says:

      But the Centris survey doesn’t indicate how many people watched more than 1 episode. So, as our story points out, it is not a perfect comparison to aggregate audience of other shows.

  18. Timmy says:

    You can’t expect shows to go mainstream when there are heavy amounts of foul language and nudity. Not everyone wants that out of their TV shows. Think about the number of Hollywood blockbusters that are PG-13 vs R. Clean it up and you might get bigger numbers.

    • Derp says:

      I don’t think they want to clean it up for bigger numbers when they are satisfied with what they get. Also, a prison show would be less believable (not to be confused with realistic) if nobody swore. Also, what of the violent content? I think it says something about society that violence is less of a problem than the naked body.

  19. TRacy Wynn says:

    OITNB is a women show. Guys not into it. They would be if there were more sexier women probably lol! Also, house of cards is cool for netflix but pales in comparison to cable shows. I dont even watch it. Also, there is the fact that netflix folks know the shows will always be there on netflix and they can binge 4 years from now if they like.

    • Derp says:

      What an ignorant statement. I’m not sure who should be more offended, women or men. I know plenty of men who watch because not all men are superficial meatheads who only want eye candy. It’s not a man’s show or a woman’s show. It’s about good storytelling period (and no I’m not a rabid fan,or a fan at all…it’s just not my preferred genre.)

    • Blonde, blue-eyed Jesus says:

      “HOC pales in comparison to cable shows.”


      House of Cards is no less than the highest quality, most cinematic drama ever on television. It’s on the level of a 13 hour prestige movie from a top writer and director. Maybe you should watch it, then compare it to the shows you watch, before you dismiss it.

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