×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Netflix Caused 50% of U.S. TV Viewing Drop in 2015 (Study)

Netflix is leaving an indelible mark on the TV biz — and while the streaming giant isn’t dealing a fatal blow to the industry, it is seriously cutting into traditional television ratings.

In 2015, Netflix accounted for about half of the overall 3% decline in TV viewing time among U.S. audiences, according to a new study by Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson. The analyst calculated that based on an estimate that Netflix’s domestic subs streamed 29 billion hours of video last year (Netflix said members worldwide watched 42.5 billion hours in 2015). That would represent 6% of total American live-plus-7 TV viewing reported by Nielsen (up from 4.4% in 2014).

Moreover, Nathanson predicts Netflix’s total streaming hours as a percentage of TV viewing will continue to rise to about 14% by 2020. “Currently, Netflix is a source of industry pain, but not necessarily a cause of industry death,” he wrote in the note.

Executives at media conglomerates are now viewing Netflix as a growing threat. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who once compared Netflix to the “Albanian army,” last fall said that the company may pull back on licensing TV content to SVOD services.

But not all TV networks are suffering from the rise of Netflix and other streaming-video services, Nathanson noted. Total viewing of networks from Time Warner, Scripps Networks Interactive, AMC Networks and Discovery Communications rose in 2015. A+E Networks’ viewing hours declined 15%, Viacom fell 13%, and NBCUniversal and Disney each dropped 5% overall.

In comparing TV viewing of Netflix vs. non-Netflix households, broadcast networks took the biggest hit in 2015. CBS viewing among Netflix subs was 42% lower than non-subs, with Fox at -35%, ABC at -32% and NBC at -27%, according to Nathanson’s analysis.

Meanwhile, viewing time of Disney’s networks last year was 11% higher in Netflix homes versus non-Netflix homes. Viacom saw a “modest” 5% year-over-year drop in Netflix homes; in that case, “it is unclear if this is as a result of viewership which has already been negatively impacted by SVOD services in prior years, or if the company’s younger-skewing viewers are switching back and forth more easily to watch both linear television and SVOD services,” Nathanson wrote.

Based on viewing time, Netflix in 2015 was bigger than smaller cable programmers like A+E and AMC, but not as large as the seven biggest conglomerates (NBCUniversal, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Discovery and CBS).

One caveat on the analysis: Nielsen’s Live+7 excludes online and mobile viewing on TV networks’ sites and apps. But Nielsen hours-viewed numbers adjust for co-viewing, whereas Netflix’s reported data is per household. According to Nathanson, that means Netflix per-person viewing is underrepresented relative to Nielsen Live+7; thus, the analyst assumes the two factors largely cancel each other out.

Other studies have compared Netflix’s viewing to traditional TV. The service was on track to attract a larger 24-hour audience than each of the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) some time in 2016, per an analysis last summer by FBR Capital Markets.

As of the end of 2015, Netflix reported 74.76 million streaming customers worldwide, including 44.74 million in the U.S.

One big challenge for Netflix now will be increasing its reach among older consumers, according to Nathanson, an age group that watches more traditional TV than younger demos. SVOD penetration among those 35-44 is 60%, then tapers off to 54% for the 45-54 cohort, 37% for 55-64 and 23% for those 65-plus.

Nathanson’s note Thursday, “Is Netflix Killing TV?,” is an update to one the analyst published last April.

More Digital

  • Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese

    Alibaba Buys 8% Stake in Chinese Video Platform Bilibili

    Alibaba has purchased an 8% stake in the Chinese online video platform Bilibili, the official Xinhua news agency reported. Bilibili is one of China’s top video streaming and entertainment platforms, with about 92 million monthly active users and 450 million page-views per day. Founded in 2009, it was listed on the NASDAQ last March. Alibaba’s [...]

  • Clevver-Logo

    Hearst Magazines Buys Clevver's Pop-Culture YouTube Channels After Defy's Demise

    Hearst Magazines has snapped up Clevver, a network of female-skewing lifestyle and pop-culture news YouTube channels that had been owned by now-defunct Defy Media. Clevver was left homeless after Defy’s sudden shutdown in November; its principals said at the time they were looking for a new home. Hearst Magazines sees a digital fit with Clevver’s [...]

  • "Brother" -- Episode 201-- Pictured (l-r):

    CBS Interactive's Marc DeBevoise on Streaming Boom, Content Strategy, and Apple

    Not everyone wants or needs to be Netflix to succeed in the streaming space. And not everyone sees Apple’s enigmatic new service as a threat. Even as rival streaming services offer gobs of content, CBS Interactive’s president and COO Marc DeBevoise sees the company’s targeted original programming strategy continuing to attract viewers to its All [...]

  • Rhett-Link-Good-Mythical-Morning

    Rhett & Link's Mythical Entertainment in Talks to Acquire Smosh (EXCLUSIVE)

    Smosh, the YouTube comedy brand left stranded after parent company Defy Media went belly-up, may be about to get a new business partner. Mythical Entertainment, the entertainment company founded by top YouTube comedy duo Rhett & Link, has been in talks about acquiring the Smosh brand, sources told Variety. Multiple potential buyers came forward to [...]

  • Pokemon Go

    Proposed 'Pokémon Go' Lawsuit Settlement May Remove Poké Stops, Gyms

    A proposed settlement in the class action lawsuit against “Pokémon Go” developer Niantic could remove or change a number of Poké Stops and Gyms in the popular augmented reality game. The proposed settlement was filed in a California court on Thursday and applies to anyone in the U.S. who owns or leases property within 100 meters [...]

  • Skyline of Doha at night with

    Qatar's beIN Rallies Support From U.S. Companies Against Pirate Broadcaster beoutQ

    Qatari powerhouse beIN Media Group has rallied support from American sports and entertainment entities, including Discovery and Fox, behind its request that the U.S. government place Saudi Arabia on its watch list of top intellectual property offenders. The Doha-based broadcaster, a state-owned spinoff of Al Jazeera news network, accuses the Saudi government of harboring pirate broadcaster [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content