About 105 million Netflix users have watched at least one episode of “Orange Is the New Black,” the streaming service’s originals chief Cindy Holland exclusively told Variety in the July 18 cover story on the series, now entering its seventh and final season. That makes the series Netflix’s most-watched original ever.
The show was part of Netflix’s first wave of original programming, then a curious but bold strategic move that has since morphed into a library of more than 700 originals on the service as the company bets on such programming to drive subscriber growth.
The Netflix-provided figure is a rarity, though chief content officer Ted Sarandos told analysts and investors on the earnings call Wednesday that the company will be “increasingly transparent with producers” with its data over time.
In its second-quarter report, Netflix noted a loss in U.S. subscribers for the first time in eight years, which it attributes to a weak content slate during the quarter and a subscription price hike. The unusual sub loss sent its stock down double-digits in after-hours trade.
This shakiness arguably underscores the need for original content on the service. Morgan Stanley analyst Benjamin Swinburne said he may have underestimated Netflix’s need for hits to drive subscriber acquisition.
“This does not make us incrementally more anxious about losing ‘Friends’ or ‘The Office,’ but rather more focused on Netflix’s ability to find the next ‘Strangers Things’ or ‘Orange Is The New Black’ to bring new members into the service,” he wrote. “The good news is Netflix has more content ‘at-bats’ (over $9 billion in streaming content amortization in 2019E) than anyone else in TV and simply being average should lead to a steady stream of new hits.”
The recent pullback of licensed content like “Friends” and “The Office” from Hollywood players is something Netflix says it has been anticipating. Though the loss of both shows is a blow to the streamer, it also says that even its most-viewed shows make up only low-single-digit percentages of viewing. (And notably, “Friends” will still be available on Netflix outside of the U.S., where growth is most robust.)
“We think it’s been very important to the business to continue pushing down that road, so the more international, more global, more original film,” said Sarandos.
Read the July 18 Variety cover story for more on how “Orange Is the New Black” marks the end of the first era of Netflix originals, as a new era of competitive streaming wars emerges.