July 1, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) A new analysis predicts that by the year 2016, Netflix will have more viewers than ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox. The growth of the media streaming website has broad implications for the future of how Americans and the world consume content. Most importantly, it signals a deconstruction of conglomerate-run media.
FBR Capital Markets, the Wall Street research firm that conducted the analysis, found that if Netflix were a Nielsen-rated network, within a year it would enjoy a larger 24-hour audience than other popular, mainstream networks.
These conclusions, however, come with a caveat. As Variety summarized, “Nielsen TV ratings cover, at most, up to seven days of VOD (video on demand) and DVR viewing — and exclude online-video views, which networks say are an increasing part of the pie. Moreover, TV networks provide a different blend of content, such as live sports, that Netflix doesn’t.”
Even so, analysts stressed that the figures were meant to compare “the relatively popularity of Netflix to similar TV nets.” Based on the 10 billion hours of content Netflix users watched in the first quarter of 2015, FBR was able to calculate the site’s hypothetical Nielsen score. At 2.6, it tied both ABC and NBC. Further,
“…given that Netflix is growing usage at a compound annual growth rate of more than 40% — while broadcasters are on average declining — that means the streamer will have a larger 24-hour audience in one year than any broadcast network.”
Between the unprecedented popularity of Netflix original series and consumers’ preferences for the streaming website over other traditional networks (a FBR survey conducted in April found 57% of respondents preferred Netflix to cable or satellite TV subscription), it appears media markets are changing.
While Netflix is itself a corporation, it is dwarfed by six major media corporations that control 90% of American media (all of the stations Netflix would surpass in viewership are owned by members of the major six). Though it still spends billions of dollars to stream corporate content, the way that viewers are choosing to consume it signals detachment from traditional forms of consumption—namely, rigid television programming with excessive time carved out for commercials.
Further, Netflix’s investment in original (and often anti-establishment) content such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black makes it a formidable contender against major studios churning out often tired, repetitive content for both television and film. How many films can be squeezed out of a single franchise? How many times can Dirty Dancing and Beauty and the Beast be remade? How many mediocre films can be recycled into even poorer quality television series?
Hollywood’s most powerful wage ambitious attempts to keep the balance of power in their favor. The Motion Picture Association of America, chaired by former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, acts as corporate Hollywood’s lobbying organization and works to maintain existing power structures by lobbying for internet censorship to protect copyright laws, among other things.
In spite of this, Hollywood’s conglomerate profits are sinking to record lows while independent producers thrive (a trend that parallels the public’s growing distaste for mainstream news and subsequent surge in independent sources). Television’s profitability is also expected to drop as advertisers shift their focus to digital media (note: Netflix does not display any ads on its platform). Further, ratings for television are consistently down as audiences seek alternative ways to consume media.
Netflix’s growing popularity is evidently only one sign of an evolving and increasingly decentralized media. Now, if other entertainment companies followed the same suit, we’re sure to beat the current selfish game of the mainstream media.
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