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Netflix Displaces HBO for Best Original Programming: Survey

Netflix customers over-index on premium TV channel subscriptions: Morgan Stanley study

Netflix is now wearing a crown that has belonged to HBO for years.

More American consumers picked Netflix as having the “best” original content than any other premium TV and Internet-video subscription service, well ahead of perennial leader HBO, according to a new survey by Morgan Stanley.

It’s the first time Netflix has led the field in the six years the Wall Street firm has conducted the survey. About 29% of survey respondents said Netflix was best in original programming, up from 23% last year, while HBO came in second place at 18% (compared with about 31% last year), per the Morgan Stanley study.

Showtime, Hulu and Amazon were each in the 4%-5% range, while 2% said Starz has the best original content, according to the survey results.

“This comes as we estimate that in 2016 Netflix will spend more on (original programming) than HBO for the first time,” the Morgan Stanley analysts led by Benjamin Swinburne wrote in the report. Netflix will spend as much as $2.5 billion on content in the U.S. this year, Morgan Stanley has projected, versus $1.8 billion for Time Warner’s HBO and about $700 million for CBS’s Showtime.

For Netflix, users’ perception about the quality of exclusive programming is key, especially as it raises rates for long-term subscribers starting next month to $10 per month for the standard HD plan. About 45% of Netflix members cited original programming as a major factor of their continued membership, up from 34% last year, the Wall Street firm found.

At the same time, Netflix customers are more likely to also subscribe to HBO, Showtime or Starz than non-Netflix subscribers. About 49% of Netflix members say they have an HBO subscription and 35% pay for Showtime (compared with 40% and 28%, respectively, of total respondents).

“Netflix members continue to be heavy TV consumers, and actually overindex to premium networks when compared to the overall survey population,” Swinburne and the Morgan Stanley analysts wrote.

Meanwhile, consumers who said they “don’t know” which service has the best originals stood at 34%, up 7.4 percentage points from Morgan Stanley’s 2015 survey. That highlights that “the rise in (over-the-top) usage may be coinciding with a lack of clarity and perhaps growing confusion over content branding,” the MS analysts wrote.

In a worrying indicator for the pay-TV premium nets, Morgan Stanley found a rising intent to cancel (or “cord-shave”). About 19% of current premium TV service subs said they “definitely” will cancel HBO, Showtime or Starz in the next 12 months, up from 13% last year. The firm estimates that aggregate subscriber growth in the U.S. for HBO, Showtime and Starz slowed in 2015 to 3.6%.

The survey polled 2,501 U.S. adults 18 and older in a representative sample of population in terms of age, geography and income, according to Morgan Stanley. The study has a maximum margin of error of 1.5% at a 90% confidence level.

Pictured above: Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” starring Taylor Schilling (r.) and Laura Prepon

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