Netflix, for now, continues to be the clear and undisputed champ in the subscription video-on-demand ring.
The SVOD service, No. 1 in terms of subscribers, leads in terms of hours of content viewed and overall customer satisfaction, according to a recent survey by Wall Street firm Cowen & Co. The research is based on a survey of 1,025 consumers conducted from Dec. 30, 2014, to Jan. 2, 2015. About 40% said they’re current Netflix subscribers.
Netflix customers reported watching an average of 7.7 hours of content per week — 1.9 times the nearest competitor, Hulu Plus, which came in at 4.1 hours. On a weekly basis, Amazon Prime Instant Video users reported viewing 3.5 hours, versus HBO Go with 3 hours and Showtime Anytime with 2.7 hours, the survey found.
In addition, Netflix was head and shoulders above other SVOD services — as well as pay TV — on customer satisfaction. On a 1-5 scale asking about user experience, Netflix received a 4.1 ranking, 22% ahead of Amazon Prime Instant Video and HBO Go (both at 3.4); cable/satellite providers (3.2); Showtime Anytime (2.9); and Hulu Plus (2.9).
The Cowen analysts, led by John Blackledge, on Friday upgraded Netflix to “outperform” (from prior “market perform”) based on the survey results, including optimism about the company’s 2015 originals slate. The Wall Street firm raised its price target on the stock from $360 to $382 per share. As of 12 p.m. ET, Netflix shares were up 2.4% for the day, to $331.40 per share.
According to the survey, of the current crop of Netflix originals, subs are most looking forward to the third seasons of “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” with 64% and 59%, respectively, saying they plan to tune in. “HoC” Season 3 is slated to drop Feb. 27; “OITNB” is expected to return this summer.
Other top Netflix offerings that users said they expect want to watch, per the Cowen survey, included Disney/Marvel’s “Daredevil” series (17%), set to debut April 10; the fourth season of “Longmire,” the A&E crime drama Netflix picked up last fall (16%); and Netflix’s first original movie, the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” from Weinstein Co. set for August 2015 (16%).
The survey also found that Netflix’s “Marco Polo,” which debuted in December 2014, has performed well. Roughly 14% of Netflix subs watched at least one episode of the historical drama, compared with about 10% who watched at least one episode of “House of Cards” within the first 10 days of its release. According to the Cowen survey, 65% of subs rated “Marco Polo” as “good” or “exceptional” (4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5).
The Wall Street firm also polled Netflix subscribers about whether they’d be willing to continue subscribing to the service if there was a price hike. Netflix announced a price increase in May 2014 for new subscribers to its most popular plan — by $1 per month, to $8.99 — but said existing subs would not be affected for two years.
On Cowen’s most recent survey, 62% said they would continue to pay for Netflix after a price increase. Of those, 21% said they would be willing to pay $3 or more per month (vs. 18% in Cowen’s February 2013 survey and 9% in its July 2013 survey). However, the Cowen analysts wrote, “Our survey data suggests pricing power among current NFLX subscribers, who are active users and appreciate the original content, but may not extend to non-subs contemplating signing up for the service.”
Netflix is scheduled to report fourth quarter 2014 results on Jan. 20 after market close.