Netflix was conceived in 1997 by Reed Hastings (the current CEO) and Marc Randolph. Both had previous in the West Coast tech scene – Hastings was the owner of debugging software firm Pure Atria, while Randolph had cofounded, and then sold computer mail order company MicroWarehouse for $700 million
Netflix.com started life as a DVD rental service in 1998; an online rival to the then dominant Blockbuster Video. Hastings had claimed that he was spurred to found Netflix after being fined $40 by Blockbuster for the late return of Apollo 13, though he later revealed the story was a fiction intended to help foster a creation myth.
The then nascent DVD format, introduced to the US in 1997, was key to the firm’s business model, providing a format lightweight and compact enough to work in a mail order context. Around the turn of the century, Netflix introduced the subscription model, moving away from single DVD rental. The idea was now that subscribers could rent as many DVDs as they could watch, without incurring any extra costs or late fees. Around the same time, the first Netflix algorithm was introduced, utilising user ratings to select films that might appeal to any given subscriber.
Netflix grew strongly in the early years of the century, from 300,000 users in 2000, to 600,000 in 2002, to 4.2 million in 2005 – profiting from the increasing affordability of DVD players. Growth did not come without hiccups. Netflix suffered quite badly in the wake of the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.
The preceding year, the growing company caught the attention of the rental behemoth it had been intended to topple, with Blockbuster offering to buy the loss-making Netflix for $50 million. As Blockbuster closed its doors forever in 2013, standing as a monument to the folly of not adapting business models to the times, Netflix will no doubt be relieved that they did not accept the offer.
The company made its IPO in 2002 on Nasdaq. But it was five years later that it introduced the feature which changed everything, and with which it is now synonymous: streaming. In the following years it partnered with various technology companies to diversify the ways one could access Netflix. By 2010, you could watch Netflix through a PS3, an Xbox360, or an Apple device. Central to its success in the new format was the algorithm, that helped to steer users towards the content that they would most enjoy. Content that they could then ‘binge-watch’.
2010 was also the year it went international, launching in Canada. Latin America would follow in the 2011, while the conquest of Europe took place gradually over the next few years, followed by the Asia Pacific region. Today, Netflix is a truly global phenomenon, with a full global rollout in 2016. Indeed, only citizens of North Korea, Syria, China (mainland), and Crimea are denied the binge-watching pleasures of the streaming service.
Netflix added another differentiator in 2012: original content. Lilyhammer led the charge in 2012, but it was House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, both launched in 2013, that really changed everything. Netflix is now seen a heavyweight produced of original series, with a number of Emmys to its name. In 2018, Netflix was nominated for 112 Emmys – ending a 17-year run by HBO as the top-nominated network.
Since 2015’s Beasts of No Nation, Netflix Originals content also includes films. Indeed, Netflix has been behind some of the biggest and most highly-acclaimed films in the world in recent years. These include Oscar nominees such as Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, and Oscar winner, Alfredo Cuaron’s Roma. Netflix earned more nominations than any other film studio at the 2020 Oscars.
But in terms of awards, the first Emmy Netflix ever won, in 2012, is perhaps the most illustrative: an Emmy Engineering Award – given to those individuals or organisations that have profoundly changed the way we watch television. Netflix, it is fair to say, has profoundly done this.
We’ve compiled and analysed Netflix statistics from around the web below. Read on to find out about who watches Netflix, how they watch it, how much revenue Netflix generates, and more.
Table of Contents
Netflix Overview and Key Statistics
|HQ||Los Gatos, California|
|People||Reed Hastings (co-CEO, founder), Ted Sarandos (co-CEO, chief content officer), Greg Peters (COO, CPO)|
|Company type||Public (NASDAQ: NFLX)|
|IPO date||29 May 2002|
- 204 million Netflix streaming subscribers as of Q4 2020 (Netflix)
- Netflix users by region in Q4 2020: 74 million US & Canada; 67 million EMEA; 38 million Latin America; 25 million Asia Pacific (Netflix)
- Netflix accounts for 34% of US streaming/8.5% of overall viewing (Nielsen)
- Netflix US library contains 3,600 movies and 1,800 shows as of February 2021 (JustWatch)
- Extraction most viewed Netflix Originals film as of January 2021, with 99 million views in first month (Netflix via What’s on Netflix)
- The Office most streamed Netflix (and overall) series in the US over 2020, with a total of 57.1 billion minutes (Nielsen)
- Total Netflix 2020 revenue came to $25 billion, up from $20 billion in 2019 (Netflix)
- Netflix revenue by region in Q4 2020: $3 billion US & Canada; $2.1 billion EMEA; $0.8 billion Latin America; $0.7 billion Asia Pacific (Netflix)
- Netflix net revenue over 2020 came to: $710 million in Q1; $720 million in Q2; $790 million in Q3; $540 million in Q4 (Netflix)
- Netflix raised $15 billion through debt from 2011-2020 (Netflix)
Key Netflix User Statistics
Netflix users (paying subscribers) by quarter
|Quarter||Netflix users, millions|
Netflix users vs other streaming services, global
|Service||Subscribers, millions||Date figure pulled|
|CBS All Access/Paramount+*||18||Nov-20|
|Apple TV Plus||10-33**||Feb-20|
*March 2021 rebrand
**Estimated range, includes free trials
Netflix users by region, 2018 – 2020
|Date||US/Can||EMEA||Latin America||Asia Pacific|
Netflix users by region, 2011 – 2018
Netflix users by country*
|Netflix subscribers, millions|
*estimates, Q2 2020
US Netflix penetration by generation
|Generation||Subscriber||Share account||Past subscriber||Non-subscriber||Never heard of Netflix|
Netflix UK penetration vs rival services, % online adults
|Streaming service||Percentage of online adults with access|
Netflix UK penetration vs rival services, households
|Streaming service||Number of households with subscriptions|
|Amazon Prime||7.9 million|
UK Netflix subscribers crossover with other services by age
|Services||% of 16+ streamers||% of 16-34 streamers|
|Netflix + Amazon Prime||29%||26%|
|Netflix + Disney Plus||6%||10%|
|Netflix + Amazon Prime + Disney Plus||18%||26%|
With whom do Netflix subscribers share their accounts?
|Who account shared with||Percentage of users|
|Share with friend||17.7%|
|Share with family member in different household||9.2%|
|Share with relative||25.6%|
|Do not share||47.5%|
Source: Kill the Cable Bill
Why do people choose Netflix?
|Reason||Average importance out of five|
|Can choose content||2.5|
|Can binge watch||2.7|
|Like the shows||2.8|
|Like the movies||3.1|
|Family likes it||4.4|
Netflix users’ main complaints
|Complaint||Percentage of users|
|Removal of licensed content||28.2%|
Source: Kill the Cable Bill
Key Netflix Usage Statistics
Netflix share of US streaming minutes vs rivals, Q2 2020
|Streaming platform||Percentage of streaming|
Netflix UK content hours viewed vs rivals, April 2020
|Streaming platform||Hours viewed, millions|
Key Netflix Content Statistics
US Netflix library size vs rival streaming services*
*as of February 2021
US Netflix content rated 7.5+ on IMDb*
*as of February 2021
UK Netflix library size vs rival streaming services*
*as of February 2021
UK Netflix content rated 7.5+ on IMDb*
*as of February 2021
Number of US Netflix titles also available on rival platforms*
|Streaming service||Crossover titles|
|Amazon Prime + Hulu||7|
*December 2018 stats
Change in Netflix library size by year, 2010 – 2020
Most-viewed Netflix Originals films*
|Title||Views** in first month, millions|
|The Old Guard||78|
|The Midnight Sky||72|
*As of January 2021
**Two minutes of viewing = 1 view
Source: Netflix via What’s on Netflix
Popular Netflix Originals series, viewership in first 10 days
|Series||10-day viewership, millions||Per-minute audience, millions|
|Stranger Things 3||36.3||20.5|
|Stranger Things 2||31.2||17.5|
Most-viewed Netflix Originals series in the US, 2020
|Originals series name||Total minutes streamed 2020, billions|
|The Umbrella Academy||13.5|
|Great Baking Baking Show||13.3|
|Boss Baby: Back in Business||12.6|
Most-viewed Netflix licensed series in the US, 2020
|Licensed series name||Total minutes streamed in 2020, billions|
Most-viewed Netflix movies in the US, 2020
|Movie name||Total minutes streamed in 2020, billions|
|Secret Life of Pets 2||9.1|
|Dr Seuss’ The Grinch||6.2|
Netflix UK viewing hours by genre, April 2020
|Genre||Percentage of viewing hours|
Key Netflix Revenue Statistics
Netflix revenue by quarter
|Quarter||Netflix revenue, USD millions|
Netflix quarterly revenue by region, 2018 – 2020, USD millions
|Quarter||US & Canada||EMEA||Latin America||Asia Pacific|
Netflix quarterly revenue by region, 2011 – 2018, USD millions
|Quarter||US revenue||International revenue|
Netflix ARPU by region, 2018 – 2020, USD millions
|Quarter||US & Canada||EMEA||Latin America||Asia Pacific|
Netflix net income and operating income by quarter
|Quarter||Net income, USD millions||Operating income, USD millions|
Netflix average market cap by year
|Year||Average market cap, USD billions|
Netflix costs by year, USD billions
|Year||R&D||General & Administrative||Sales & Marketing||Total|
Netflix US cost vs rival platforms*
|Streaming platform||Monthly subscription cost, USD|
|Apple TV Plus||$4.99|
*‘Standard’ Netflix subscription as of Feb 2021, ad-free service level for Hulu, Disney Plus price as of March 2021
Netflix user attitudes after 2020 price hike
|Attitude||Percentage of subscribers|
|Will downgrade to lower subscription||13.8%|
|Definitely want to cancel||6%|
Source: Kill the Cable Bill
Other Key Netflix Statistics
- 85% of US streaming subscribers subscribed to Netflix in 2019 (Statista)
- 59% of US 16-34-year-olds say Netflix indispensable vs 35% of those aged 35+ (Marketing Charts)
- 13-19-year olds prefer YouTube to Netflix; those aged 20-29 and 30-39 choose Netflix as their favourite streaming service (YPulse)
- 96% of UK Netflix subscribers plan to renew their subscription (Ofcom)
- 58% of UK children use Netflix, vs 52% who use YouTube (Ofcom)
- 61% increase in streaming via TV in the US during the coronavirus pandemic, taking daily Netflix usage to an estimated 3.2 hours per day (Nielsen via Variety)
- Collectively, US viewers are estimated to have viewed 204 million hours on Netflix per day during coronavirus lockdown measures (Kill the Cable Bill)
- Average US Netflix subscriber used 9.6 GB of data per day over lockdown; a collective 527 million TB over a month (Kill the Cable Bill)
- UK 18-34-year-olds watch 40 minutes of Netflix per day, well ahead of traditional TV, though behind YouTube (Ofcom)
- UK Netflix users three times more likely to use service daily compared to Amazon Prime users (Which)
- Netflix plans to release one original film per week in 2021 (Netflix)
- 52% of UK Netflix users feel content is refreshed regularly enough, compared to 42% of Amazon Prime users and 44% of Now TV users (Which)
- Netflix raised $15 billion in debt from 2011 to 2021 (QZ)
At the end of 2020, Netflix paying streaming subscribers numbered 203.66 million – the first time the figure crossed the 200 million mark.
Netflix paying streaming subscribers, millions
Data source: Netflix
Of these, 73.94 million Netflix users (we will use the term ‘user’ interchangeably with ‘streaming subscriber’, unless otherwise specified) were based in the US & Canada. Growth in this region has slowed, however, compared to other regions. EMEA has seen rapid growth in recent years, climbing from 37.82 million in Q4 2020, to 66.7 million two years later.
Asian Netflix users have also more than doubled in this period, to reach 25.49 million in total. Latin America has grown more steadily, and it would not be a surprise to see the former overtake it in the not too distance future.
Netflix users by region, 2018 – 2020, millions
Data source: Netflix
International growth in Netflix subscriptions has far outpaced domestic growth in recent years, since international users first came to account for the greatest proportion of international users as recently as 2017.
This has led to a change in reporting for Netflix, which used to split users between US and international users. We can see below a clear disparity in growth between international and domestic US Netflix subscribers in the years preceding the new reporting. A tripling of international users between Q3 2015 and Q3 2015 and Q3 2018, compared to 36% growth in the US.
Netflix ascribed the erosion of domestic subscriber growth to increased competition from a growing pool of competitors, with Apple, Disney, HBO, and Peacock, among others, joining Amazon and Hulu in recent years.
Netflix users by region, US vs international, 2011 – 2018, millions
Data source:: Netflix
Netflix subscriber growth clearly profited from the circumstances of 2020, with growth at more than double expected level in Q1 2020, and 33% over target in Q2 2020.
We might note as recently as Q2 2019, Netflix was reporting a disastrous quarter, with little over half the hoped for 5 million net adds.
Netflix subscriber growth: estimates vs actual, 2016 – 2020
The below shows us how far 2020 was an outlying year.
Overall growth in Netflix subscribers over the course of 2019 represented something of a stagnation, with the final figure inferior to 2018’s figure. We might note that 2018, however, had been the the best year by some measure in terms of Netflix subscriber growth before 2020.
2021 growth is anticipated to be more conservative.
Netflix subscriber growth: year-on-year comparisons, 2016 – 2020
Netflix is comfortably the world’s biggest streaming service. Amazon Prime, with 150 million subscribers (this dates back to January 2020, however), is a distant second, while the relatively fresh Disney Plus reported 87 million as of December 2020.
This comparison does not include major Chinese streaming platforms.
World’s biggest streaming services by subscribers, millions
In terms of viewer numbers (not subscribers), Netflix comfortably leads other OTT video players in the US. Chief rival Amazon lags far behind, at around 60% of Netflix viewer-base at the time of the below eMarketer study.
We might note, however, that Amazon and Hulu especially are growing at faster rate than Netflix.
Apple and Disney (already owners of Hulu) pose a further threat to Netflix here, as increasing stretched viewers will be forced to choose between streaming apps.
US Netflix user numbers vs other streaming services, 2019
A Statista survey from late 2019 found that 85% of Americans who spend money on digital video services were Netflix users. Amazon in second place is subscribed to by 65%, giving us an extent of how pressed viewers already are to subscribe to multiple services, with at least 50% subscribed to both of the biggest two services.
We might note that over 50% are Hulu subscribers also. We can expect Apple and Disney to figure in future iterations of this research .
Netflix share of paid digital video subscribers in the US
eMarketer predicts that increasing levels of competition will gradually erode Netflix’s market share from 87% of OTT viewers (overlapping with others) in 2019 to 86.3% by 2023. In 2014 this figure stood at 90%, according to these Netflix stats.
US Netflix market share, 2019 – 2023
Another set of stats looking at penetration levels of the ‘big 4’ streaming services pegs Netflix’s penetration of OTT households at 75%.
This compares to 55% for YouTube, 44% for Prime Video, and 32% for Hulu.
In all the big 4 account for 79% of OTT viewing hours. These stats, we might note, data from before Apple TV+ and Disney+ entered the fray.
Netflix reach of US OTT households
Just how big a threat is Disney+ to Netflix? An April 2019 survey conducted by Streaming Observer found that while around 60% of Netflix subscribers were unmoved by the prospect of Disney’s service, 12% were considering cancelling Netflix in favour of the new service and 2% were sure they would. A further 20% were planning on combining the services.
The junior vote looks set to be key in this battle. Respondents with children were more likely to be considering cancelling Netflix (23% to 10% without) or subscribing to both services. With Disney’s vast repository of children’s classics, this is something to which Netflix will certainly have to be alive.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding. Parents and children will only fairly be able to say whether it’s worth dropping one for the other after taking it for a test drive. 37.5% of Netflix users responded that would be giving Disney+ a spin. A little over 20% were unsure – presumably waiting to see what the early adopters and reacting accordingly. In more reassuring news for the incumbent, the largest constituency of some 40% had no interest
ComScore (in 2019) broke down the reach of top OTT apps by the type of OTT household. Netflix penetration is highest among cord cutter households (84%) – that is households which used to subscribe to cable or satellite, but have since moved entirely over to OTT services.
Netflix penetration is second-deepest among cord never households (households which have never subscribed to cable or satellite), at 79%. Finally, it is lowest among those who continue to subscribe to traditional TV, by far the biggest demographic.
This order of penetration is consistent, we might note, for all of the big 4 OTT providers covered in ComScore’s analysis. Netflix penetration is comfortably the highest in all categories, to the extent a greater proportion of cable/satellite subscribers use it than cord cutters use YouTube.
For context, 65% of OTT households still have cable or satellite, while 19% were cord cutters, and 16% cord nevers.
These Netflix stats date back to March 2019. So once again we add the caveat that Disney+ and Apple TV+ are not yet part of the equation.
Netflix reach vs other OTT apps, by type of OTT household
Viewers can, of course, combine multiple OTT viewing sources with already existing cable TV packages. At some point, however, finances will inevitably become stretched, and tough decisions will have to be made.
Netflix seems like it’s in a good position in this regard, coming out on top in a US survey asking which services were indispensable – an appellation given it by 44% of respondents.
This rises to 59% of under-35s – more than double second-place Hulu’s share. It ranks fourth among older viewers, though it is the only non-television network in the top five. The gap between first-place CBS (41%) and Netflix (35%) is also considerably narrower.
Most indispensable viewing sources in the US, by age
Source: Marketing Charts
This will certainly be worrying reading to providers of traditional cable and satellite television. Indeed, we are seeing a gradual decline in traditional TV watching in the US, as viewers turn to the freedom and choice of a multitude of OTT video providers. It was reported that Netflix actually overtook cable TV providers in the US as far back as 2017 – though this is not taking satellite TV into account.
eMarketer chart out the long-term decline in pay TV households vs non-pay TV households in the US. By 2023 it is estimated that households that pay for some form of traditional television will declined to 72.7 million – compared to 56.1 million who don’t.
US pay TV households vs non-pay TV households, 2013 – 2023
The total number of cord-cutter households is set to rise from 17.3% to 27.1% between 2019 and 2023, according to eMarketer estimates. This would take the total number of cord-cutter households to nearly 35 million, up from 21.9 million in 2019.
US cord-cutter households, 2019 – 2023
Perhaps more worrying for traditional television providers is a survey showing that Americans find streaming content more entertaining than cable TV.
On the one hand this is unsurprising among those who are streaming service subscribers, among whom 82% elect streaming as more entertaining. What is perhaps more surprising is the fact that two-third of cable TV subscribers find streaming more entertaining.
No doubt there is a good deal of crossover between the two constituencies, so many of those cable TV subscribers will also have access to Netflix or an equivalent service. Nevertheless, if cable is unable to appeal on the strength of content then long-term survival does not look assured by any means.
Do US viewers find steaming content or cable TV more entertaining?
The Netflix revolution is by no means limited to the US. In the UK, the number of subscribers to streaming services (15.4 million at the time) was widely reported to have overtaken the number of people who use traditional satellite or cable television services (15.1 million) in 2018.
By 2020, it was estimated that 13 million UK households had Netflix subscriptions. This is nearly double the 7.9 million households subscribed to Amazon Prime.
To look at it another way, 45% of ‘online’ adults had access to Netflix in 2020, compared to 39% for Amazon Prime and 16% for the then recently launched Disney Plus.
Netflix penetration in the UK vs key rivals
Data source: Ofcom
The same Netflix data found that 95% of UK Netflix subscribers planned to renew, showing they felt the platform offered value.
Of UK subscribers to the top-three on-demand video services, 78% used Netflix. The largest share used Netflix in combination with Amazon Prime (29%), though 25% subscribed only to Netflix. The same amount of users subscribed to all three services (18%) as to Amazon Prime alone.
This figure rises to 84% among users aged 16-34. Among these users, 26% apiece subscribe to Netflix and Amazon, or all three services. Slightly fewer (22%) make do with Netflix alone.
UK Netflix users, crossover with rival services
Data source: Ofcom
Looking at even younger users, Netflix was found to be used by 58% of UK children, compared to 52% who used YouTube.
Netflix users by country
Comparitech estimates that after the US, the largest constituency of Netflix users can be found in Brazil, with 16.4 million users, as of Q2 2020. The UK is close behind, on 14.8 million Netflix subscribers, with France and Mexico a more distant fourth and fifth (7.6 million and 7.4 million respectively).
Australia leads the way in Asia Pacific, with 6 million Netflix users. The only representative from the Middle East and Africa is the UAE, on 0.6 million.
Netflix users by country, Q2 2020 millions
Data Source: Comparitech
Of course, some countries have an edge by sheer dint of their populations – so where can find the highest Netflix penetration rates? eMarketer sought to provide an answer to this question back in 2018.
The US led the way back then, with two-thirds of digital video viewers logging into Netflix at least once a month. Northern and Western Europe were well represented in the top-10, with Australia the only country from the Asia-Pacific region featuring.
Top 10 Netflix markets by penetration rate, 2018
eMarketer reported that Netflix’s presence was slightly weaker in Asia in 2018. Higher competition from local providers, and a lack of localised content are among the challenges faced in the region.
Netflix stats on regional penetration published on Statista confirm this, putting Asia Pacific last of all regions. It is predicted, however, that we will see penetration more than double, increasing from 11% to 25% by 2025. (eMarketer predicts that Netflix’s Asia-Pacific market share will increase from 12% to 14% over 2020).
This would still leave it, however, in last place, with EMEA penetration also set to more than double from 19% to 41%. We don’t have any further detail, so it is unclear from where in both of these extremely diverse regions this growth in penetration rates is set to come.
According to this estimate Netflix penetration will increase to over 50% in Latin America, and to over 60% in the US & Canada – with growth slowest in this region, where penetration is already reckoned as being above the half-way mark.
Netflix penetration by region, 2019 vs 2025
It is unclear how penetration is being measured here – these figures all certainly seem on the higher side. What we do know is that both regions are seeing rapid growth in Netflix subscribers. In December 2019, Netflix reported that EMEA subscriber numbers had increased 105% over two years to reach 47.4 million, and APAC subscribers had increased 148% to 14.5 million. If these growth rates were maintained, the increases touted above might be plausible, even if the penetration figures themselves seem high – though this may be a quirk of how they are measured.
Netflix penetration rates of 70-80% for Western Europe are quoted elsewhere.
Netflix Japan reportedly boasts a larger catalogue than Netflix US. Market penetration is still relatively low in the world’s third-biggest economy, however, despite absolute user numbers being in the global top 10. In 2018, Netflix penetration in Japan stood at 16% of internet users or 17% of on-demand subscribers, despite heavy investment. Among the challenges faced is the continued popularity of free-to-air channels, popular with older consumers.
In India, the market is not yet mature, with low-cost traditional TV still dominant (and competition from the free-to-use YouTube).
eMarketer predicts solid growth levels of around 26% over 2020, which would take the Indian count of Netflix users up to 10.2 million, which would give us a penetration rate of 3.1% – up from 2.8% in 2019.
As connectivity improves in India, the digital video market is set to grow in size, reaching just under 370 million by 2021 – or 66% of video users.
It is a market on which Netflix is focused, however, with a reported $420 million earmarked for producing and licensing content in India (much of this content – such as much-loved Sacred Games have also travelled internationally). This includes a reported slate of 22 films and unscripted content.
Another clear bid to target the Indian market was the introduction in that market of a bargain sub-$4 one mobile-device only subscription.
Perhaps this interest has something to do with the $5 billion predicted value of the Indian streaming market, as well as the nation’s huge prospective market of 1.3 billion. Netflix isn’t the only service alive to this. With Disney+’s March 2020 India launch in the market coming sooner than expected, competition in the market is set to heat up rapidly…
Netflix users and penetration in India, 2016 – 2020
That’s the world’s second-most populous nation – but what of the world’s most-populous nation to the north? Well, like many other US-based and international apps Netflix is blocked in China, meaning the market is left to domestic players. These are led by Baidu-owned iQiyi, which in 2019 crossed the 100 million subscriber threshold.
Netflix partnered with iQiyi in 2017 to get a foothold in the market, however the partnership was deemed to be a failure, with Chinese viewers not taking a shine to Netflix content. iQiyi continues to license content from traditional US studios. Netflix, on the other hand, has moved towards creating and licensing Mandarin-language content in a bid to target the Chinese diaspora/Mandarin speakers around the world.
Reliable recent data on Netflix demographics is not easy to find. There are some small-scale studies, but the we remain most convinced by The New Netflix Nation – a compilation of Netflix statistics put together by CivicScience looks into the demographic trends of US Netflix users. Unfortunately this data dates all the way back to 2017, comparing that year with 2015.
Though the time period is relatively short, some changes occurred. Perhaps most notably, the Netflix user base is more evenly split between male and female viewers: a 49:51 ratio (in favour of female viewers), compared with 45:55 reported up to 2015.
The median age of Netflix users now seems to fall in the 35-44 bracket, whereas in the 2015 study, youth dominated, giving a median in the 25-34 bracket. The proportion of Netflix users fell as you went up in age bracket in the 2015 study. The under-25 bracket was by far the biggest in 2015, and the over 65 the smallest, with a simple slope in between. The 2017 study on the other hand, describes an arc, with the proportion of users more in line with the proportion of the general populace that falls into each respective age bracket – representative of the deep market penetration of Netflix.
US Netflix users by age
A more recent study from Statista, dating to May 2020, shows us Netflix penetration level in the US by generation.
Here, we see a majority of users in each generation except Boomers are subscribers, with penetration levels highest among the youngest generations. A relatively equal amount of each generation shares a Netflix account (7-10%).
The likelihood of being a former subscriber increases with age. Curiously, the largest proportion of those who claim not to have heard of Netflix are among Gen Z, at 6%.
Netflix US penetration by generation
Data source: Statista
A 2021 survey from Millennial and Gen Z-focused YPulse found that while teenage users preferred YouTube to Netflix (which came second), those in their 20s and 30s elected Netflix as their favourite platform.
Netflix’s appeal is not limited to those with a certain level of educational attainment. There’s nearly a perfect match between the educational levels of Netflix users and the overall US population. Everyone from high school graduates to graduate degree holders loves to tune in to a few episodes of Orange is the New Black. There’s was little change between 2015 and 2017.
US Netflix users by education
In terms of income, we once again see proportions in line with the wider population. As we might expect, penetration is slightly deeper as we climb income brackets. This differs from 2015, where Netflix users were more likely to fall into lower income brackets. No doubt this is closely connected with the lower average age.
US Netflix users by income
While these traditional demographic trends are illustrative, they are not useful in predicting what sort of content any given user might be interested in. VP of product, Todd Yellin went so far as to say in 2016, “Geography, age, and gender? We put that in the garbage heap.”
Netflix is driven instead by globally-collected data. Users are categorised not by who they are on paper, but by what they like. Content is categorised into tens of thousands of micro-genres – examples given by Buzzfeed include ‘critically acclaimed emotional underdog movies’ or ‘gritty Chinese action & adventure from the 1970s’.
The Netflix algorithm is tuned to help you find something to watch within 90 seconds – the period after which they figure you will give up and go elsewhere. Reed Hastings stated in Netflix’s Q3 2019 earnings statement that the way content was served up was in fact more important that the content itself.
Indeed, Buzzfeed also reports that the algorithm is even tuned to serve you up different thumbnails according to your previous interests – with multiple options even for the same film depending on your viewing history. Thumbnails reportedly command 82% of a viewer’s attention for the 1.8 seconds a title is reviewed. Netflix has had few missteps in this department – sometimes foregrounding pictures of minor cast members in what seem like cynical bids to attract certain demographics. Netflix has claimed this is purely based on viewing history.
Viewing history is taken to be a far more useful measure than critical success. Netflix removed star ratings and user reviews in 2017, in favour of a ‘match percentage’. Viewers can give content a thumbs up or down to help ensure closer matches where the algorithm has recommended something less to their taste.
Geographical location is another factor which has been deemed a poor indicator of taste. Netflix has been noted for its focus on international content, with various shows in different languages proving popular in non-native markets. Indeed, it has even been credited for bringing subtitled content to the notorious reluctant US. That said, it also runs a comprehensive dubbing operation also – and defaults to dubs, which it says increase viewership. Netflix currently supports over 20 languages.
Such is Netflix’s commitment to subtitling, that it even administered its own online test (Hermes) for a period (2017-2018) in a bid to take control of the entire process of testing, training, and commissioning subtitles. After a glut of applications, Hermes was shut down, with Netflix deciding to keep faith with its 10 or so localisation vendors.
To give an idea of the scale of the operation. Chelsea Handler’s talk show alone reportedly called on 200 translators.
Before we end this section, we are going to look at one final demographic trend that, no doubt, will matter to Netflix – and that is what percentage of Netflix users are subscribers?
The terms ‘user’ and ‘subscriber’ are both bandied about, at times seemingly interchangeably – and often unclearly. Subscriber numbers are, of course, easier to ascertain, whereas for user numbers we have to rely on surveys.
According to a study published in April 2019, 55% of Netflix users pay for their own subscription. A further 27% use that of someone with whom they cohabit. 14%, however, use the account of someone they don’t live with – perhaps a group of friends who share a password between them?
A final 5% were found to be using Netflix as part of a free trial – a small percentage, but fairly significant if we take it as being representative of any given moment in time.
How many Netflix users pay for their own subscriptions?
A small survey conducted in 2020 found that over 50% of US Netflix users shared their accounts, with a relatives (26%) and friends (18%) the main beneficiaries.
With whom do Netflix users share their accounts?
Source: Kill the Cable Bill
Netflix Usage Statistics
Between us, we spend a lot of time watching Netflix. A September 2018 news story found that parents spend more time watching time Netflix than they do with their children (one-on-one quality time, at least).
Netflix’s VP for original content Cindy Holland revealed in conference in March 2019 that the average Netflix viewer watches around two hours of content per day.
It was estimated that during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, daily Netflix usage time in the US increased by 61%. This would give us average daily viewing time of 3.2 hours.
Collectively, it was estimated that 204 million hours of Netflix content were consumed in the US during this period.
In December 2019, eMarketer Netflix usage stats indicated a lower average time of 27 minutes per day, accounting for a 27% share of digital video time.
Both of these metrics have increased. eMarketer predicts daily Netflix viewing time will continue to increase over 2020 and 2021, though at a slower rate. Its share of viewing time, however, is set to decline, falling to 25.7% by 2021. This, however, is the consequence of increasing time spent streaming rather than anything directly pertaining to Netflix itself.
These trends are similarly observable in YouTube, which is already losing share in terms of its percentage of daily digital video time. Daily viewing time stood at 23 minutes in 2019, set to increase gradually to 25 minutes in 2021. Netflix surpassed YouTube as the most-viewed digital video channel in 2018.
For context, average daily video time stood at 100 minutes in 2019, up from 62 in 2015. This is set to increase to 115 minutes by 2021.
Average daily time spent with Netflix in US
Streaming Observer calculates, based on its average of 71 daily minutes per day, that a cumulative 165 million hours of Netflix are watched daily across the globe (as of April 2019). That is equivalent to 18,812 years, and would consume nearly 500 million GB of bandwidth – equivalent to a whopping 15% of the world’s bandwidth capacity. The latter figure while already shocking could be even higher, Streaming Observer notes, if Netflix wasn’t so good at compressing video.
Estimates place Netflix data usage during the peak months of coronavirus lockdown at an average of 9.6GB per user per day.
Nielsen viewing figures for Q2 2020 give Netflix a 34% share of streaming minutes over Q2 2020, comfortable ahead of even YouTube, at 20%.
In all, streaming accounted for 25% of all viewing, thus giving a Netflix an overall share of 8.5%.
Netflix share of US streaming minutes, Q2 2020
Data source: Nielsen
Nielson audience stats published in February 2020 going back to Q4 2019 reveal that streaming accounted for 19% of television watching in the US at this point. Of streaming hours, Netflix claims the biggest share: 31% – or 6% of total television time. This is ahead of YouTube (21%), 12% for Hulu, and 8% for Amazon Prime.
Netflix share of US watch time, Q4 2019
Total time spent with media came to a somewhat terrifying 12 hours between TVs, TV-connected devices, radios, computers, smartphones, and tablets.
A PCMag study from September 2019 found that 52% of US streamers watch between one and 10 hours per week. Going up through the viewing hours, 24% watch 11-20 hours, 10% watch 21-30 hours and the last 14% watch over 31 hours. Breaking that last group down a little further, we see 4% of survey respondents reported watching over 60 hours of Netflix per week. That’s a quite-frankly terrifying average of at least 8.5 hours every day.
A 2018 study by Civic Science found that US Netflix subscribers are getting their money’s worth. Close to half use it multiple times per week, while a further quarter use it several times a month (the presence of those who subscribe but don’t use the service can be ascribed to parents and grandparents who pay for the service for children or grandchildren).
How often do subscribers watch Netflix?
The above figures refer to those who only use Netflix. Interestingly, those who subscribe to Netflix in conjunction with another service seem to use Netflix more often, with close to 60% logging in a few times per week.
How often do subscribers to two streaming services watch Netflix?
The trend continues for those with three subscriptions, with two-thirds watching multiple times a week. Perhaps the takeaway is that users with more subscriptions are more deeply engaged with streaming. And that those who are spending more money will be more inclined to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth.
According to Nielson data from February 2020, 18-34-year old Americans are the most likely to subscribe to more than one service, with nearly half (47%) in this age bracket subscribing to three, and a further 31% subscribing to two. The number subscribing to three services declines with age – 31% of 35-49-year olds, 17% of 50-64-year-olds, and only 14% of those aged 65 or above.
Conversely the proportion of single-service subscribers increases with age. 18% for 18-34-year-olds, 30% of 35-49-year-olds, 38% of 50-64-year-olds, and 47% of 65+ users. The same trend is observable for those with no subscription: from 0% of the youngest bracket, to 13% of the oldest.
Overall, we see 32% of American streaming subscribers sticking with a single service, 30% with two subscriptions, and 30% with three. A mere 9% do not subscribe to any.
Worryingly for those with a stake in traditional entertainment forms, the CivicScience study shows only 13% of Netflix subscribers go to the cinema on a monthly basis. Once a year is enough for 31%, while 25% never go. Television still looks safe though, with only 18% not watching live TV. Nearly half (48%) watch cable, and a further 18% satellite.
Despite the fact that seven in 10 US households use an SVOD service, Netflix has to work hard to earn its share of daily viewing time – as stated above, the algorithm is all-important. Nielson statistics from July 2019 show that only one third of US SVOD viewers will browse the menu to search from something. 21% will simply give up searching if they can’t find anything to watch.
Reportedly, the average adult takes 7.4 minutes to find something to view on a streaming service. Younger users are willing to spend the longest to find something worth watching, with 18-34-year-olds spending 9.4 minutes, compared to 8.4 minutes for 35-54-year-olds. The average is brought down by those older than this, who will only spend 5 minutes before ‘diving into’ something.
In the UK, over April 2020 (the first full month of coronavirus lockdown), Netflix was viewed for a collective 36 million hours. This, however, was exceeded by the 57 million hours logged by Amazon Prime users, who were clearly keen to get value for money during this period.
UK Netflix content hours streamed in April 2020 vs rivals, millions
Data source: Ofcom
A pre-pandemic 2020 survey from Which runs contrary to this. These stats showed that UK viewers were three times more likely to be daily Netflix users than daily Amazon users.
In 2019, average Netflix UK viewing time among 18-34-year-olds stood at 40 minutes per day, with only YouTube’s 1 hour 4 minutes in excess of this. This is well in excess of traditional television channels, led by ITV on 17 minutes per day.
If we taker a wider view to take in all adults above the age of 18, Netflix falls some way down the pecking order, with average viewing time of 18 minutes per day. This is eclipsed by both the two traditional biggest television channels, BBC 1 (48 minutes) and ITV (37 minutes), as well as YouTube (34 minutes).
So here we can see that Netflix is the key channel among younger viewers for traditional-length content. Among older viewers, it forms part of a viewing mix with other channels – we might assume that viewing of traditional channels constitutes some idle watching time as well as tuning in to watch specific marquee programmes.
Netflix average daily viewing time UK vs other popular channels, by age
In 2013, rather than staggering the release of series over a number of weeks as with traditional television, Netflix began to release entire series at once. With the need to tune-in-next-week taken out of the equation, the cultural phenomenon of the ‘binge-watch’ was born – which, as it sounds, simply means watching episode after episode in rapid succession until there’s nothing left to watch. It entered our lexicon so decisively, that Collins English Dictionary chose ‘binge-watch’ as its word of the year in 2015.
In January 2020, Forbes reported that the average time it takes to binge a series on Netflix is five days; though there are 8.4 million Netflix users out there who attempt to binge series in a mere 24 hours.
Netflix does not release viewing figures as a rule. It does, however, release the occasional curiosity (see Netflix content stats for more viewership figures). In 2017 and 2018 it released fairly limited end of year bingeing reports (trained on originals – otherwise Friends would top every single list). See more about these below.
In 2019, however, official statistics were not released. Instead, we have to rely on non-official stats from Insider, produced in conjunction with TV Time.
These are as follows…
Most-binged original shows on Netflix, 2019
- Stranger Things
- Orange is the New Black
- 13 Reasons Why
- The Punisher
- The Umbrella Academy
- Jessica Jones
- Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
- The Santa Clarita Diet
- Big Mouth
- Queer Eye
- Designated Survivor
- Grace and Frankie
- Dead to Me
- The Ranch
- One Day at a Time
- Black Mirror
We see that bingeable content is a mixture. The ubiquitous superhero content is of course prominent, and we see a number of the latest series of various returning names. We also might note a whole host of completely new names, reflecting the centrality of fresh content to Netflix’s binge watching model.
In 2018, we got an official list of the most-binged shows from Netflix.
Most-binged shows on Netflix, 2018
- On My Block
- Making a Murderer: Part 2
- 13 Reasons Why: Season 2
- Last Chance U: INDY
- Fastest Car
- The Haunting of Hill House
- Anne with an E: Season 2
- Orange Is the New Black: Season 6
In a rather frustratingly limited set of stats, we also found out The Kissing Booth was the most rewatched original movie in 2018, followed by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, and Roxanne, Roxanne. This may well be an attempt on Netflix’s part to draw attention to the relatively niche, and algorithm serving, The Kissing Booth.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before star Lana Condor got the second-biggest boost in Instagram followers, with Joel Courtney in third. The list, however, was topped by Queer Eye’s ‘fab five’, in a category that seems tailormade for them.
2017’s ‘A Year in Bingeing’ was a somewhat more substantial though still fairly random set of Netflix stats, based on survey data as much as viewing figures from Netflix. We found that the series most commonly watched for more than 2 hours per day were American Vandal, 3%, and 13 Reasons Why; the series most commonly savoured (watched for less than two hours per day) were The Crown, Big Mouth, and Neo Yokio; the shows that saw most people cheating (secretly watching an extra episode without their partner) were Narcos, 13 Reasons Why, and Stranger Things; and the series rated best to watch together with family were Stranger Things, 13 Reasons Why, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Other titbits include that January 1st was unsurprisingly the biggest streaming day of the year. That Mexican users were the most likely to be daily Netflix users. The average user watched 60 movies over the course of the year. And that 140 million hours of Netflix were watched daily – equal to 1 billion hours per week.
These stats also include the shocking revelation that one subscriber watched Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 365 days in a row. Hopefully by the end of the year they were able to tease out some of the finer poetic nuances and hard-hitting social commentary from this masterful chapter of the rollercoaster-inspired celluloid masterwork (ahem).
In early 2018, it releases figures for the shows which are most commonly subscribers’ first-ever binge – the ones that reflect a change in their viewing habits. To count as a binge, the viewer must finish an entire season in one week.
This is top-20 first binges, a mixture of original and licensed content.
- Breaking Bad
- Orange is the New Black
- Stranger Things
- Prison Break
- House of Cards
- The Inbetweeners
- American Horror Story
- Peaky Blinders
- Pretty Little Liars
In total, Netflix revealed that viewers were getting through 1 billion hours a week of Netflix content per week. That’s a lot, but it only accounts for 8% of the total amount of time people spend watching video.
To break that down, that 140 hours of Netflix viewed per day. The average user, by this measure, spends just under 50 minutes daily watching Netflix.
Original vs. licensed content
As of August 2018, Netflix had released 88% more original programming than it had over the equivalent period in 2017. Goldman Sachs estimated that Netflix’s 2018 content spend could be as high as $13 billion – totally eclipsing the $6.3 billion spent in 2017 (as well as the public projection of $8 billion). Around 85% of this goes on original programming.
As mentioned above, Netflix is secretive about viewing figures. It estimated, however, that despite this high spend, 80% of Netflix streams are for licensed content that first aired elsewhere, with 42% of viewers never viewing original content.
Fortune, which, reports these figures, warns that the study from which they are taken dates back to early 2017 – since when Netflix’s strategy has been far more focused on original content. It is still thought that licensed content still has the edge on Netflix Originals in terms of streaming numbers.
Netflix viewing devices
Netflix might have revolutionised the way we watch television, but that doesn’t mean that we no longer use televisions themselves. While the most popular device used to sign up to Netflix is a computer, followed by a phone, 70% of streams are viewed on televisions, according to Netflix statistics released in 2018 (though users tend to go through a period where they use their computers as well). This is even the case following the introduction of downloading content to view offline in 2016.
Netflix devices: sign-up to six months
This, according to Recode, applies whatever the genre, with television as dominant for children’s content as for documentaries. To facilitate this, Netflix has struck a deal with 60 TV operators around the world (starting with Virgin in the UK in 2013) to offer apps through cable or satellite television boxes.
Netflix usage is of course not constrained to the television, with the part of the value on-demand television is that you can demand it in any given scenario.
In the UK 6.6 million viewers access Netflix through their smartphone – substantially ahead on any other platform. These users are fairly evenly split between iOS and Android, with the latter just about exceeding the former, 3.4 million to 3.2 million.
SVOD smartphone users in the UK
In February 2020, it was announced that Netflix was entering into a closer relationship with Samsung, which would see Netflix more deeply integrated with Samsung’s voice recognition service Bixby and the S20 phone. Users will also receive pop-up recommendations of shows they may like. Behind-the-scenes footage filmed on S20 cameras will also be made available through Samsung media channels (available to non-Samsung users).
This is notable, as previously Samsung has previously enjoyed a close relationship with Amazon Prime, the first streaming platform to support Samsung’s HDR10+ format. The news come not long after it was revealed that Netflix would no longer be supported on older Samsung smart TVs.
Why do people choose Netflix?
According to a MoffetNathanson survey referenced by Recode, the top reason that Netflix subscribers cite for using the service is the desire to not be interrupted by ads. This is followed by the ability to choose what they watch and being able to binge watch.
Clearly the flexibility of streaming speaks to subscribers. Of course this applies to all streaming services, so Netflix is really trading off its first mover advantage here. It’s interesting to see bingeing being up here – what a technique used to compel users to watch more content (through the autoplay function) has become what they crave…almost like it’s addictive or something.
Number four on the list – I like their shows – is a clear differentiator. While it’s not at the top of the list, this is where Netflix can gain or lose ground to its competitors.
This certainly should also serve as a warning against ever running ads on Netflix.
At the bottom of the list of reasons to subscribe to Netflix we see kids’ shows and familial pressure. While this may positively indicate that, by and large, Netflix subscribers are personally invested in the format, it does mean that – as we discuss elsewhere – Netflix may be open to pressure from Disney+, which is distinctly well-equipped to appeal to younger viewers. We should never count against the pressure to which this leaves subscribers open.
Why do people choose Netflix?
According to Nielson’s Total Audience Report Q4 2020, the most important to thing to users of streaming services are cost (84% saying it is extremely/very important), ease of use (81%) and then variety/availability of content.
Netflix perhaps does not offer the cheapest option, but we can’t deny that its algorithmic setup makes usage simply for even non-digital natives to easily come across content. It also does well in terms of its repository of must-watch content.
Other factors that are important include streaming quality (77%) and speed (74%), which indicate the important of getting the basics right. We might note the case of the now defunct Filmstruck, which perhaps is best summed up by a headline on The Verge: The World’s Greatest Movies are Trapped on a Terrible Website.
What is important in video streaming?
On the other hand, the most popular reasons for signing up to multiple streaming services is to get access to more content (47%), to watch a hyped show (37%), and to watch exclusive content –attesting to the importance of originals.
On the other hand, 37% also just want to get access to shows they used to watch on TV, confirming the value of those library shows.
What makes people subscribe to multiple services?
In the UK, the number one reason viewers chose to use Netflix is to watch programmes at a convenient time (43% of users in 2019, up from 39% in 2018), followed by the desire to watch original series (41%), and to watch something different than what’s offered on traditional television (40%).
By way of contrast, the number one reason people subscribe to Amazon Prime is gain access to free Amazon shipping (51%). While this doesn’t necessarily reflect as well as it could on Prime as a service to which users turn to access the best content, it does reflect Amazon’s ability to draw on an arsenal of complementary services in its bid to achieve total ubiquity.
Netflix Content Statistics
Netflix cannot compete with Amazon Prime in terms of the sheer volume of cinematic content. In the US, Amazon boasts nearly 26,000 films to Netflix’s 3,500. Things are a bit closer in terms of shows, where Netflix counts 1,800 to Amazon’s 2,600.
No other US service can really compete in terms of volume. These stats were pulled February 2021.
US library size vs rivals
Data source: JustWatch
Different services are available in different countries, so we also compared Netflix with its UK competitors. The paradigm is largely the same, except Sky Go leads the way in terms of series, with 2,204 to Netflix’s 1,962 and Amazon’s 1,997.
UK library size vs rivals
Data source: JustWatch
As of early 2020, 52% of UK Netflix users told Which they felt the library was refreshed enough for their tastes. This compares to 44% of Now TV users and 42% of Amazon Prime users.
Streaming Observer listed the size of the movie library in other countries back in 2019.
- Australia – 3,480
- Canada – 3,844
- Germany – 2,704
- India – 3,515
- Japan – 3,046
- Mexico – 2,839
- New Zealand – 3,436
- UK – 3,710
Switching back to the US, we can see that there’s been an overall reduction in the size of the Netflix library over the last few years. The library reached peak size in 2012, with 11,000 shows and movies. It reached its smallest size in 2018, and has gradually started climbing up since then.
Netflix library total size by year
Data source: Reelgood
It’s clear that the contraction of the library has been driven by a reduction in the number of movies available on Netflix. We don’t have figures for the peak 2012, but we can see there was reduction of 3,000 films between 2010 and 2020, from 6,755 to 3,730.
On the other hand, the number of shows has grown, from 530 to 2,108. This reflects a shifting strategy from Netflix reflecting and guiding viewing habits. We might note that each series will contain a good deal more content than a single feature film. If we looked at it in terms of content hours, then, the story would be very different.
Number of movies and shows available on Netflix by year
Data source: Reelgood
Aside from original content available on each platform, those labouring to choose between the top streaming platforms might note that there is a good deal of crossover. In 2018, Netflix shared 277 films with Amazon Prime, 52 with Hulu, and 7 with both.
Titles available on multiple platforms
Data source: Reelgood
In an interesting piece which compares Netflix library size to the price paid for subscription to see where users are getting the best value (Colombia; Swiss users get the worst deal), Comparitech also maps out the total size of Netflix libraries across various markets, using a VPN.
Interestingly, this seems to suggest that many EMEA Netflix libraries are relatively small, while Asians seem to get a pretty good deal (if we exclude the Middle East).
Netflix library size by country
Of course, it’s not just about the size of the library. Disney Plus launched with a seeming focus on quality over quantity, offering 7,500 episodes and around 500 movies – this compares to 47,000 episodes on Netflix alongside the near 4,000 films.
So how do these services stack up when it comes to highly-rated content? We filtered results on JustWatch by IMDb score, using the fairly arbitrary cut-off point of 7.5.
Here, we see Amazon Prime’s lead cut, though it still offers four times as many movies. Another outlet focused on high-quality output, HBO, also just edges Netflix on high-quality films, 479 to 427.
In terms of series, however, Netflix offers 703 to Amazon Prime’s 798, a more close run thing. Hulu’s 528 is the only other competitor that offers above 50% of the quantity of series.
Netflix US content rated 7.5+ on IMDb vs rivals
Data source: JustWatch
If we switch to the UK Netflix library, Netflix outstrips even Amazon Prime for quality series, at 780 to 640. The disparity between the movie libraries are slightly less pronounced also, at a ratio of 3:1 in favour of Amazon.
Once again, Netflix is outstripped by a third service for movies, with Sky Go’s 823 highly-rated films significantly greater than Netflix’s 466.
Netflix UK content rated 7.5+ on IMDb vs rivals
Data source: JustWatch
IMDB is based on audience reviews. Rotten Tomatoes also aggregates film reviews, but focuses on critics’ reviews over those of the general public. Films that cross a certain threshold of positive reviews are ‘certified fresh’.
Using this as a baseline, we see that Netflix blows other streaming services out of the water, with nearly 600 movies which make the cut. This is more than Amazon (232), Hulu (223), and HBO Now (38) combined.
These stats date back to 2019.
How many films are ‘certified fresh’ on rival streaming services?
Source: Streaming Observer
Netflix reported in 2018 that 85% of new spending on content was going towards the creation of Netflix Originals. It was estimated that Netflix spent $15 billion in 2019. This compares to $27.8 billion by Disney, $6.5 billion by Amazon, and $6 billion from Apple.
Netflix content spend on original programming vs rivals, 2019
A total of $17 billion was expected to be spent on Netflix content over the course of 2020, set to increase to $26 billion by 2028. Over 2021, Netflix announced that it planned to release one Netflix Originals film per week.
Netflix is reportedly aiming to lower its dependence of licensing content from other producers. Quartz reports that Netflix has locked several prestigious directors in contracts to produce content from the platform.
These include Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story), Shonda Rimes (Grey’s Anatomy), and comic book published Millarworld. Murphy’s services were secured for the princely sum of $250 million for five years, while Rhimes set them back by $100 million. Netflix has also earned praise for doing better than Hollywood in terms of hiring female directors.
The platform has proved a lucrative place for comics recording specials. In recent years Netflix has paid $40 million to Chris Rock, $13 million to Amy Schumer, $20-25 million to Ellen DeGeneres, $40 million to Ricky Gervais, $60 million to Dave Chappelle, and $100 million to Jerry Seinfeld. Netflix is reportedly in talks (at the time of writing) to produce a special with Eddie Murphy for $70 million.
Other content deals signed by Netflix include a $60 million deal with Beyoncé for three specials.
The sheer volume of content being produced by Netflix now rivals the entire US television industry in the early years of this century. 2019 is Netflix’s current apex in this regard, with 371 pieces of content produced – in excess of the 292 produced for US television. This represents a serious increase over Netflix 2018 figure of 240. In Q4 2019, Netflix reportedly debuted over 800 hours of content.
US television producers have seriously ramped up production since then, however – with 2018 seeing 1,233 television shows and movies produced. 2019, however, saw a small contraction in the figure, to 1,178. Perhaps in the not too distant future we will see the streaming giant become the world’s biggest entertainment producer.
Netflix content produced vs television industry, by year
The movies being put out by Netflix seem to be of an increasingly high calibre (certainly helping to paper over some of this mediocre filler movies), with names like The Irishman and Marriage Story drawing critical praise.
In recent years we’ve seen the number of Oscar nominations received by Netflix gradually climb, reaching a record 24 in 2020. Perhaps the most high-profile of the eight it has so far won is a Best Director award for Alfonso Cuarón for triple award winning Roma in 2019.
Netflix famously tied with HBO to win 23 Emmy Awards in 2018, although couldn’t match the prestigious network’s 34 wins with its 27 in 2019. Amazon Prime also managed to win seven in the later contest, so Netflix certainly cannot afford to rest on its laurels in terms of programming quality either (so far as awards represent this).
Netflix has also won a total of 12 Golden Globes (from 75 nominations).
Netflix Academy Award nominations by year
Better content equals more demand. Research conducted by Parrot Analytics reflects the dominance of Netflix in this regard, controlling 61.3% of global demand share for original content in Q3 2019. This has largely been ascribed to the popularity of Stranger Things, the third season of which went out in this quarter.
This figure, however, represents a 1.3% decline for Netflix by this measure – showing that while it is currently dominant, other platforms are also investing in originals.
Demand share of original series by platform, Q3 2019
Source: Parrot Analytics
This figure is slightly lower in the competitive US market, in which Netflix accounts for 59.9% of demand, with Amazon Prime gaining 9.3% and Hulu 7.8%.
Netflix does fare well in the all-important drama category, where it holds a 66.9% share of demand in the US, compared to 10.6% for Hulu and 10.1% for Hulu.
It has suffered, however in the action/adventure genre, where it holds a mere 31.7% of demand share. DC Universe is the market leader here, with a 38.7% share, having seriously eroded its rivals’ share since launching in September 2018.
This is certainly a triumph for the young platform, which only hosts a limited number of original series (including the hugely popular Titans). Amazon Prime holds demand share of 17.2% in this category.
A CivicScience report published in October 2019 found that US viewers overwhelmingly prefer Netflix when it comes to original programming, with 60% choosing Netflix as the best place to find original programming. Amazon Prime, with a 15% vote share was a distant second, with Hulu and HBO Now only claiming 8% apiece.
With HBO long considered the natural home of prestige content, for Netflix to be preferred by 7.5 more people is certainly a vote of confidence in the streaming giant’s content.
Netflix vs rivals: who produces the best original content?
If we break it down by age group, we don’t see a clear pattern for Netflix, which is most popular with viewers aged 35-54, very close two thirds of whom prefer Netflix original content.
We see simpler patterns for Amazon Prime, the popularity of which increases with age, and Hulu, for which the opposite is the case.
Though it still claims an above 50% share, Netflix curiously seems to drop in popularity among 25-34 year olds, who are the also the demographic that most heavily favour HBO Now.
The Netflix view would be that age does not serve as a useful predictor of what content someone would like – but something about HBO and Amazon Prime content clearly speaks to this second-youngest (and key) demographic.
This same dataset also reveals that HBO users are the biggest Twitter users, if that sheds any light on the matter. We also find out that those who prefer Netflix are the least tech savvy, perhaps the perfect demographic to be served by an all-knowing algorithm then…
A survey among cable cutters conducted by Morgan Stanley published in May 2019 found that 40% believed Netflix had the best original content, followed by HBO on 11%. The former had increased from 39% in 2018, and the latter was down from 14%, with the end of the long-running Game of Thrones thought to be potentially damaging for HBO’s content proposition.
Well, we say HBO was in second place. More accurately, we should say second place went to ‘don’t know’, which logged 32%. This perhaps suggests that customers are not sufficiently motivated to look into the answer to this question, which works in Netflix’s favour as the biggest and most ubiquitous streaming provider.
Netflix most-watched statistics
The most watched movie on Netflix over its first month was Chris Hemsworth’s action flick Extraction, with 99 million views. Bird Box (89 million) and Spenser Confidential (85 million) make up the top three, as of January 2021.
Most-watched Netflix Originals films in first month, millions of views
Data source: Netflix via What’s on Netflix
Nielsen stats show us the instant impact of high-profile Netflix series. Stranger Things 3 for instance, logged 36.3 million views in its first 10 days, and an average per minute audience of 20.5 million. Viral hit Tiger King was not far behind, with 34.3 million viewers and a per-minute audience of 19 million.
Popular Netflix series 10-day viewership and minute audiences
Data source: Nielsen via Variety
Nielsen stats show us that, of the 10 most viewed original series on streaming services over 2020, Netflix could lay claim to nine (the exception being Disney’s The Mandalorian). Leading the way was crime series Ozark, streamed for 30.4 billion minutes, followed by fantast offering Lucifer, and British royal-fest The Crown, on 19 billion and 16.3 billion minutes respectively.
The seemingly unescapable Tiger King only ranks fourth here, with 15.6 billion minutes of streaming. The Great British Baking Show (13.3 billion) features as original series here, despite being a simple rebrand of British TV favourite The Great British Bake Off.
Most-viewed Netflix Originals series in the US, 2020, billions of minutes
While Netflix is much commended for its original output, what the people really seem to want is the old favourites. Netflix claimed all 10 top spots in 2020, led by The Office, with 57.1 billion minutes streamed (it helps to have well over 100 episodes, of course). Medical drama Grey’s Anatomy and the recently concluded Criminal Minds follow on 39.4 billion and 35.4 billion minutes streamed respectively.
In this light, the loss of The Office to Peacock will be a blow, although Netflix has already survived losing Friends.
Most-viewed Netflix licensed series in the US, 2020, billions of minutes
The list of the most-viewed films is dominated by child-orientated Disney offerings. Indeed, of the three Netflix films to make the top-10, two are aimed at children, led by Secret Life of Pets 2, viewed for 9.1 billion minutes. The exception is Spenser Confidential, though as a Mark Wahlberg-starring action comedy, just how much of an exception is open to interpretation.
Most-viewed Netflix movies in the US, 2020, billions of minutesSource: Nielsen
Going back to October 2019 Netflix released a rare collection of stats looking at the then most-viewed content on the platform over the trailing year. We can estimate that these stats cover a slightly shorter period of time, given their disparity with the above (or it’s down to a reporting fudge). Either way, we can see that between the two stats lists, many new films were greeted enthusiastically by subscribers (2020’s conditions most certainly well have contributed).
The film list was topped by Sandra Bullock vehicle and “algorithmic chiller” Bird Box, which garnered 80 million views (read below for more on what exactly constitutes a view) despite critical indifference, much of it focusing on its built-for-Netflix qualities.
In second was Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston’s Murder Mystery (Netflix hits still very much draw on star quality) with 73 million, putting it someway ahead of Triple Frontier’s (Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac) 52 million.
Most-viewed films Netflix, October 2018 – September 2019
|Bird Box||80 million|
|Murder Mystery||73 million|
|Triple Frontier||52 million|
|The Perfect Date||48 million|
|Tall Girl||41 million|
|The Highwaymen||40 million|
|Secret Obsession||40 million|
|Always Be My Way||32 million|
Data source: Netflix
The most-viewed original series over this period was 80s set sci-fi/horror Stranger Things, which was viewed 64 million times in the year its third season was released. Stranger Things represents a triumph of strategy for Netflix, the result of bid to capture young adult viewers neglected by network television. Naturally, the appeal of the series goes far beyond this YA core – a reflection of the current cultural capital of such content – making this appear an even savvier piece of content focus from Netflix.
Superhero-focused The Umbrella Academy just edges its way into second place with 45 million views, to Spanish language drama La Casa de Papel.
This rather predictable combination of genres and titles perhaps gives us a little insight into Netflix’s carefully-honed strategy of algorithmically giving the people what they want…
Most-viewed original series Netflix, October 2018 – September 2019
|Stranger Things||64 million|
|The Umbrella Academy||45 million|
|La Casa de Papel||44 million|
|Sex Education||40 million|
|Our Planet||33 million|
|Dead to Me||30 million|
|When They See Us||25 million|
Data source: Netflix
Outside of the US, we might note that in eight countries local language content was the most viewed on Netflix in 2019. These include The Naked Director (Japan), Sacred Games 2 (India), and Undercover (Netherlands). We also saw Spanish-language La Casa de Papel gain the accolade of the most-viewed show in France.
As of late February 2020, Netflix’s The Witcher was the current incumbent for the title of world’s most-streamed show, having been locked in a running battle with Disney’s Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian. The Netflix fantasy series had held onto top spot for around two months at the time of writing, though ratings were beginning to slip. The Witcher had been watched 76 million times in its first four weeks.
Fantasy and sci-fi then are very much the order of the day – which will be news to no one at this stage (particularly if you’re afflicted with the curse of not being so into these genres). As of February 2020, it was reported that Netflix had 41 shows in production in these two genres, while Amazon had 27.
Netflix pitched the loss of Friends and The Office as a positive development by promising more investment into original programming. We might note it also invested $500 million to exclusively host Seinfeld for five years from 2021.
Coming forwards in time a little to Q3 2019, Parrot Analytics classified Stranger Things as the most in-demand show – with 169 more demand than the average show.
Other Netflix shows in the top 0.2% of streaming shows by this metric include Orange is the New Black (42x more demand than average) and Titans (38x – Titans is a DC Universe property, but shows on Netflix outside of the US). The difference between Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things goes some way to illustrating just how much more in-demand one show can be.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which premiered in this quarter, fell into the ‘outstanding’ demand bracket, with 19x more demand than average. The outstanding bracket is the top 2.7%, excluding the 0.2% reserved for exceptional shows.
Most in-demand SVOD shows in the US, Q3 2019
Source: Parrot Analytics
According to Parrot Analytics SVOD stats, drama was the most in-demand SVOD genre in the US by some distance (albeit less than in other markets) at this point, claiming 46% of demand share. The most popular subgenre was sci-fi drama.
Comedy, at 17.5% is a distant second, followed by action adventure on 13.1%. The second most-popular subgenre is superhero series, which falls into the latter category, and the third most-popular is comedy drama.
Most in-demand SVOD genres in the US, Q3 2019
Source: Parrot Analytics
An analysis by Parrot Analytics found successful shows had a few things in common. These include the aforementioned sci-fi/fantasy elements and relatively short runs (Netflix sees more value in short binge-able series over the longer runs typically seen on US TV – we might note that licensing costs tend to increase after three seasons). Such shows tend to be new or are revivals of series that were cancelled elsewhere.
Popular series see a mixture of niche audiences who may have joined specifically to watch the series in question to general viewers who watch up to 20 different series.
UK Netflix content stats
In April 2020, Drama was by far the most-viewed genre of content on Netflix, accounting for 62% of viewing time. Comedy was a distant second (15%), followed by children’s content (12%).
Netflix UK viewing hours by genre, April 2020
In the UK, Friends was the most-viewed programme on Netflix in 2019 (and the most-steamed overall on SVOD services), accounting for 2% of total streams, as of March 2019. Netflix paid £78 million ($101 million) to keep Friends on its network in 2019, up from the previous rate of £24 million ($31 million) per year. Friends producer WarnerMedia will be launching its own steaming service (HBO Max) in 2020, meaning that Netflix will lose this precious content asset.
Netflix dominates the most-streamed SVOD chart in the UK. Nine of the top-20 at this point were Netflix Originals, reflecting the value of Netflix investing in programming, with petrol-headed The Grand Tour the only Amazon Original.
15 of the top-20 were available only on Netflix, with three available exclusively on Amazon, alongside a couple of cross platform offerings. US-made content dominates, with Luther in seventh the highest represented UK-made show on Netflix, and Sex Education in 15 the highest UK-made Netflix Original.
According to Ofcom, quoting Ampere Analytics Netflix statistics, 11% of Netflix content is produced in the UK, compared to 42% which originates in the US. Both have fallen slightly, while content produced in India has increased.
Netflix viewing in the UK over 2018 and 2019 was heavily focused on drama, which accounted for 59% of streaming time. Comedy, on 16%, was a distant second, more closely followed by factual programming on 12%.
Amazon Prime is also dominated by drama, with factual and children’s programming sneaking ahead of comedy. The comparison with public service broadcasters is certainly a good deal more pronounced. These are dominated by ‘other’ programmes (presumably the glut of reality and competition shows), on 72%, with factual programming on 18% and entertainment on 7%.
Clearly then, in the UK, viewers turn to SVOD services to get their fill of dramas, and a little bit of comedy on the side to offset all seriousness…
Netflix UK viewing time by genre of programming, 2018-19
How are Netflix views counted?
TV ratings authority Nielson has striven to get a handle on ratings numbers for Netflix and other streaming services.
On the day of its Netflix premiere (November 2019), The Irishman drew an average minute audience of 2.6 million (the average number of viewers at any given minute), with total reach of 3.9 million (six minutes viewed). These Nielson figures and the following pertain to the US, and were reported in Entertainment Weekly.
Over the five days following the premiere, average minute audience rose to 13.2 million and reach 17.1 million.
751,000 viewers watched the film in its entirety on the day of its premiere (18% of total viewers), and 930,000 watched it on the first Friday following its release.
By way of comparison, Sandra Bullock’s Bird Box (December 2018) garnered average minute audience of 2.9 million on its premiere day, rising to 16.9 million over five days. 18% watched it in its entirety on the first day.
Breaking Bad epilogue El Camino (October 2019) drew in an average minute audience of 2.6 million on it premiere day, rising to 8.2 million over the next five days. First day viewers who stuck to the entirety of the
Nielson’s metrics measure viewership the same way as they would normal television. This sees a focus on average minute audience, and counts repeat views the same as first-time views.
Netflix, on the other hands, has traditionally counted defined a view as any given account viewing 70% of piece of content. Results are counted cumulatively and only once. By this measure, The Irishman was viewed 26.5 million over the course of the first week of its release. Bird Box was viewed 45 million times in December 2018, and 80 million times within its first weeks.
While Netflix seems to set a high bar for a view, it seems a bit lower for a series, for which watching 70% of one episode is enough to garner a series view.
The second season of You was watched by 40 million Netflix members by this measure in the first four weeks after its launch in December 2019. Netflix also reportedly keep viewing figures for ‘starters’, who watch two minutes of an episode of a series, and ‘finishers’, who watch 90% of season within 28 days.
18 million member households had finished watching the third season of Stranger Things in the course of few days, while 64 million had viewed it. This compares to Nielson’s figure of 19.2 million average viewers.
Netflix reported in its quarterly financial statement for Q4 2019 that it would be shifting towards using the two-minute measure for a view – which will reportedly increase views by 35% on average.
Nielson and Netflix have been at loggerheads over how views are measured, with the latter accusing the long-established agency of failing to take into account viewing mediums other than television screens.
This is a pertinent question for advertisers, with advertising spend on streaming services predicted to surpass $5 billion over 2020.
Amazon Prime does not release comparable viewer stats. Nielson reported that The Boys garnered 4.1 million viewers per episode over the first 10 days.
Netflix revenue for Q4 2002 came to $6.6 billion, and crowns strong growth over 2020. Netflix revenue has been growing fairly robustly since 2011. Q4 2020’s figure represents a more than doubling of that recorded four years prior, in Q4 2017 ($3.3 billion).
Netflix revenue by quarter, 2011 – 2020, USD millions
Data source: Netflix
In all, Netflix 2020 revenue came to just short of $20 billion, a 25% increase on 2019 Netflix revenue of $20 billion. This is around the same level of growth in Netflix revenue as we saw between 2018 ($16 billion) and 2019.
As with subscribers (logically), Netflix now breaks down its revenue by region. We can see that since Q4 2020, the EMEA contribution to Netflix revenue has doubled to $2.1 billion, while domestic revenue (plus Canada) growth over the same period is under 50% – though the figure of $3 billion is still some way in front.
Again, we have seen faster Netflix revenue growth in Asia Pacific than Latin America, albeit from a smaller base. The latter still contributes more revenue, $0.8 billion in Q4 2020, to APAC’s $0.7 billion.
Netflix quarterly revenue by region, 2018 – 2020, US millions
Data source: Netflix
Historically, Netflix reported only international and domestic revenue. As the below shows, domestic income remained the greater contributor to Netflix revenue until as late as Q2 2018, when international Netflix revenue first came to account for more.
Netflix quarterly revenue by region, 2011 – 2018, US millions
Data source: Netflix
Amazingly, domestic DVD revenue still contributes to Netflix revenue, albeit a declining and relatively nominal amount ($297 million over 2019), from 2.15 million subscribers. As recently as 2013 DVDs contributed as much as 21% of revenue.
If we look at ARPU, we get a slightly different angle of Netflix revenue by region. Here, we see that US & Canada Netflix revenue per user has grown at the healthiest rate since late 2018, adding over $2 per user (in line with price increases) to reach $13.51. EMEA revenue grew by a bit under $1 over this time to $11.05.
Both Asia Pacific and Latin American Netflix ARPU had contracted by Q4 as compared to their peak points over this period, the latter significantly. At $9.32, Asia Pacific revenue was not too far off European levels.
Netflix ARPU by region, 2018 – 2020
If we overlook the sizeable debts (see below), Netflix operates at a profit.
Being an organisation that thrives when people are unable to leave their homes, Netflix logged healthy net and operating income figures over 2020.
Q2 and Q3 saw Netflix operating income of (well) over $1 billion for the first time, with Q1 and Q4 not too far behind. Net income was at over $700 million for every quarter of the year but the last.
Netflix net and operating income, 2018 – 2020, USD millions
Data source: Netflix
Below are the figure for earlier years of Netflix net and operating income. We can see that figures started to really pick up in 2017 after a less profitable 2015 and 2016. Net income in Q4 2017 came to $186 million, while operating income came to $245 million.
In more recent years, we have of course seen figures four and five times as large.
Netflix net and operating income, 2012 – 2017, USD millions
Data source: Netflix
Netflix subscription costs vs rivals
Among popular streaming services in the US, Netflix is among the most expensive, after raising monthly fees to $13.99 in 2020 for its standard HD package. They had already been raised to $12.99 in 2019, from $10.99. A basic plan is available for $8.99 – the same cost, incidentally, as Amazon Prime. Only HBO Max, at $14.99, is more expensive than Netflix.
At the opposite end of the market, one can subscribe Apple TV Plus for only $4.99 – though the service has some way to go in terms of matching other platforms in terms of its content offering. This perhaps suggests a strategy of providing a supplementary service rather than a primary.
Disney Plus, at $7.99 is also pitched to be more affordable, though we might note that this reflects a price hike from its opening offer of $6.99, within 18 months. Those hooked on Star Wars, Marvel, and the world’s best-known children’s content will have had to take it on the chin.
These prices were accurate as of February 2021, except Disney Plus, which applies as of March 2021.
Netflix US monthly subscription cost vs rival services, USD
Data source: sources
Reportedly, Americans are willing to pay $42/month for streaming services – though Nielson data from February 2020 indicates that most (93%) they would be willing to pay more if the need arose.
On the other hand, Streaming Observer Netflix stats from January 2020 found that 27% of US subscribers were considering cancelling the service after Netflix announced a 13-18% hike was coming. A little over 60% indicated that they would carry on regardless, with some 5% saying they would continue but downgrade. Interestingly, only 35% said they would be unable to tolerate ads if it brought costs down. 29% would accept ads for a 50% price reduction, while 13% would settle for 25% off.
News travels fast when it comes to fees – 61% had heard the news within one day. On the other hand, 7% didn’t know how much they were paying.
Price hikes were found to be Netflix users’ top complaint in 2020, with 37% of users choosing this as their main gripe. This is a higher percentage than even those that bemoaned the loss of licensed content such as Friends or The Office (28%).
Netflix users’ top complaints
Data source: Kill the Cable Bill
Netflix market cap
Netflix went public relatively early in its lifespan – notably when DVDs were still its lifeblood. Netflix’s IPO was May 23rd 2002 (Nasdaq), with stock priced at $15 a share, rising to $16.75 at the close of trading – or $1.20 per present-day share after adjusting for stock splits – and raising $86 million. Netflix’s market cap was around the $3.5 billion mark at this point.
Up until mid-2018 Netflix saw strong growth in financial terms, rising particularly rapidly in the wake of its global rollout in 2016, with the market cap reaching a pinnacle of $178 billion in June 2018.
Some worse than expected results since then, however, saw Netflix stock taking a hit. December 2018 represents the nadir of these rollercoaster years, with a market cap of $107 billion – though September 2019’s $115 billion market cap in the wake of widely missed targets in Q2 2019 is not far off.
Since then, however, Netflix has effected something of a recovery, with the Netflix market cap climbing to record levels. As of mid-February 2021, Netflix stock was worth a total of $250 billion, making it the 31st most-valuable company in the world by market cap.
Netflix valuation/market cap, 2005 – 2020, billions of USD
To pick a few random points, in October 2007 you could pick up Netflix stock for $3.60, setting the market cap at $1.52 billion. Three years later, shares of $24.01 gave a Netflix a market cap of $9.13 billion. Jumping ahead five years to October 2015, you could purchase Netflix stock for $100.04, with the company valued at $43.2 billion. That investment would have doubled in value by October 2017, at which point shares were valued at $199.54, and the market cap was set at $89.1 billion.
The June 2018 zenith saw Netflix shares reach $408.25, while December 2018’s nadir saw them fall to $246.39. As of early March 2020, Netflix stock will set you back £363.14.
Nasdaq calculated that if you’d invested $1,000 in Netflix when it went public you’d have a little under $470,000 worth of stock, as of December 2020.
As of May 2018, Netflix’s market cap of $151.93 billion put it briefly ahead of telecoms juggernaut Comcast ($145.27 billion) and Walt Disney ($151.63), making it the biggest media company in the world for a time.
At the time of writing (February 2021), Disney’s market cap stood at $346 million and Comcast’s at $244 million, putting Netflix just about in second place, but a long way off top spot.
Netflix market cap vs Disney vs Comcast, 2013 – 2018
Source: The Motley Fool/Y charts
Netflix Funding Rounds
Before its IPO, Netflix went through six funding rounds between October 1997 and April 2000, raising between $250,000 and $50 million – modest looking figures given Netflix’s rapid growth since.
Netflix’s strategy of focusing on original content doesn’t come cheap. It has often turned to debt in order to finance this strategy.
Netflix raised a total of $15 billion worth of debt between 2011 and 2021. In January 2021, however, Netflix announced it was swearing off debt – presumably much to the delight of investors.
Netflix had repeatedly turned to debt to finance content. In October 2019, it raised $2 billion through junk bonds – the eighth time in a five-year period it had raised over $1 billion through debt. The last previous occasion came in April 2019 ($2.2 billion); April and October 2018 also saw Netflix raising cash through debt.
While the announcements traditionally had a negative impact on share price, Moody’s outlook for Netflix was upgraded to positive in April 2020, after a strong Q1.
Variety reports that, as of September 2019, Netflix had $19.1 billion in content-payment obligations, with $10.8 of this not included on balance sheets as it did not meet the criteria for asset recognition. Most of this debt is due for payment by 2022. Netflix reportedly expects 90% of its licensed and original streaming content assets to be amortized within four years of becoming streamable.
Netflix costs have been unsurprisingly climbing, year-on-year. Or at least that was the year – 2020 saw a plateau, with Netflix costs of $5.1 billion equalling 2019’s figure.
Sales and marketing accounts for the highest proportion of costs, followed by R&D, and then general and administrative expenses. These came down in 2020, however, to $2.2 billion, from 2019’s high point of $2.7 million. Naturally, having a captive audience probably reduces the onus on these business functions.
In 2019 over half of Netflix costs were attributable to sales and marketing. These costs nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018.
R&D expenses have been climbing more steadily to reach $1.8 billion in 2019, while general and administrative expenses vary more – though 2020’s level of $1.1 billion represents a high point.
Netflix net and operating income, 2017 – 2020
Data source: Craft
It’s a truism to say that Netflix has changed the way we watch television and film forever. That doesn’t make it less significant, however. It may well seem utterly bizarre to the viewers of the future that we would ever be at the mercy of anything as backward as television schedules, or physical media. Or that we weren’t served content personalised content by way of an algorithm.
Its first mover advantage has served it well, and it continues to dominate the space. Given that its chief rivals include Amazon, that’s no mean feat. There’s no denying, however, that the marketplace is growing increasingly crowded (resisting Amazon is one thing, but is it possible to resist Disney?), with niche services rising up alongside larger enterprises that target mainstream viewers.
It is perhaps in response to this that Netflix has moved so assertively to reposition itself as a creator as well as a distributor of content. The tactic seems to be working for now, but it remains to be seen whether it can prosper in the long run. Netflix will also be obliged at some point to address its financial situation – something that has led to no shortage of doom mongering headlines. In 2021, it swore off raising further debt – we will see it remains true to this promise.
For now, however – in the wake of its international push – Netflix continues to enjoy an exalted position as the name most synonymous with streaming content all over the world.