Years Of Pretending Netflix Cord Cutting Wasn't Real Is Biting The Cable Industry In The Ass

from the monsters-don't-go-away-when-you-ignore-them dept

If you didn’t know, Netflix is kind of huge. So huge, in fact, that some new analysis suggests that if Netflix was a Nielsen-rated TV network, the service would, sometime within a year, attain a larger 24-hour audience than ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. That’s something Nielsen itself should probably be tracking, but as we’ve noted previously, Nielsen has painfully lagged on actually tracking the cord cutting revolution, for fear of upsetting cable and broadcast executives with their heads planted squarely in the sand.

The analysts at FBR Capital Markets note that Netflix served 10 billion hours of internet video content in the first quarter of the year, roughly two hours per subscriber per day. By dividing this two-hour figure by 24 hours, then multiplying it by the number of U.S. Netflix subscribers as a percentage of households, the analysts estimate Netflix would see a Q1 ratings score of 2.6, on par with both ABC and NBC. The difference, of course, is that Netflix is growing quickly while traditional cable broadcasters are losing market share, especially on the kids programming front.

Of course, the fact that Nielsen can’t join the modern era and track TV viewing over the internet suggests this isn’t quite yet an apples-to-apples comparison:

“One major caveat: Nielsen TV ratings cover, at most, up to seven days of VOD 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. And anyway, Netflix doesn?t care about ?ratings? of individual shows, given that it doesn?t sell ads and has steadfastly refused to disclose anything but general data about viewing.”

Except Variety may overstate this, since the cable industry’s “TV Everywhere” initiative (which lets users watch cable content on their iPads and other devices in the hopes of keeping them from cutting the cord) is a bit of a dud. Cable video on demand viewing has been in the toilet for some time as well. And while sports is where cable still outshines internet video (for now), the cable and broadcast apparatus isn’t helping its case by failing to improve customer service, yet relentlessly driving up rates in the face of this increased competition. As such, people generally like Netflix’s value proposition more:

“Another data point called out by FBR?s analysts: When consumers were asked if they had to choose between Netflix and a cable or satellite TV subscription, 57% picked Netflix, with 43% opting for pay TV, according to a survey FBR conducted with ClearVoice Research in April. “Netflix subscribers clearly like it more than pay TV, which we see as arguing for pricing leverage, since pay TV, on average, costs over $80 per month,? the analysts wrote, citing Netflix?s average $8 price point.”

And things are going to get worse. Netflix is already leading the charge toward 4K and HDR content, something the cable industry (and especially the telcos using fiber to the node or DSL) won’t have the bandwidth to deliver for years. And while the cable industry loses subscribers slowly to cord cutting, Netflix is busy growing internationally, with plans to offer service in 200 different countries by the end of this year. Apparently, burying your head in the sand and pretending cord cutting wasn’t real didn’t magically stop the future from arriving anyway. Who knew?

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Companies: netflix, nielsen

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Comments on “Years Of Pretending Netflix Cord Cutting Wasn't Real Is Biting The Cable Industry In The Ass”

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Ninja (profile) says:

Who wouldn’t pay to be able to watch sports events via Netflix or a similar streaming system (of those who like it of course). Who wouldn’t pay for a news channel that offered on demand content as well via Netflix or similar? I’m using about 2 hours of Netflix a day even if it does lag behind on up-to-date content. There’s an insanely huge market out there and the channels, producers are wasting it because reasons.

If you don’t have to maintain the infra-structure things should be cheaper. So why don’t the cable industry asses don’t free up the bandwidth by stopping the traditional channel model and focus on offering good connections and stuff on demand that people will pay for? I guess they will be forced towards it at some point when the bleeding gets so hemorrhagic that it will be difficult to ignore the financial losses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

So why don’t the cable industry asses don’t free up the bandwidth by stopping the traditional channel model and focus on offering good connections and stuff on demand that people will pay for?

When the same companies support competing for their customers money over their own infrastructure expect them to protect their income by harming the competition with things like network congestion, or charging their compensation for access to their customers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nice trick there. Claim that anything that involves a screen is the same as standard television watching, and yeah, people are watching a ton of tv.

Streaming video? It involves a screen, therefor tv. Netflix? Well they pay to license some of their content, ergo people watching them are watching tv.

I also like the dismissive attitude toward online offerings, the claim that standard tv is so very highbrow while online offerings ‘listicles, saccharine viral videos — chased lowbrow mass.’ Got to say, hard to argue with that, I mean those ‘reality tv’ shows everywhere really show off some impressive class, what with the history channels running shows on aliens, science channels running anything but science, and all that poornography* around about the funny antics of poor people. Yes indeed, standard tv has really raised the standards lately.

*Not a typo. ‘Poornography: Shows catering to people’s voyeuristic urges by allowing them to obsess over the lives of others, often those less well off than themselves.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Nielsen does limited online ratings

Nielson has been exporting data from people’s computers several times per day for at least a couple of years now. You can check your own box by downloading a tool like Nirsoft’s IPNetInfo and looking at the traffic coming in an out. Now as to how much information, and what it is they’ve been taking, its anybody’s guess since it’s usually encrypted.

Karl Bode (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nielsen does limited online ratings

Computers, but my understanding is that they’re still working on tracking tablet and smartphone views? IIRC they announced this program in late 2013 early 2014 but it’s still very much being implemented. Which, again, is odd for a company that’s supposed to have its finger right on the pulse of viewing metrics.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Nielsen does limited online ratings

What I’m vaguely talking about should work w/ Tablets & Smart Phones (there is a way to account for headphones, but it requires the person w/ the device to do something extra), but probably can’t distinguish between what kind of device was being used. Only that it was on the internet, & only for those sites that are participating in the Ratings.

Anonymous Coward says:

These is why incumbents always always lose when confronting a disruptive technology/company. Instead of dealing with the disruption directly (even if that means undercutting themselves on price, cutting salaries, do major changes in the company, and so on) they’d rather put their hands on the eyes and ears and pretend the disruption doesn’t exist. Until they’ve lost most of their customers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not sure Netflix is that much better

While I will never want cable, I am now beginning to grow tired of the content that is disappearing from Netflix.

Yes I know it is not 100% their fault but I am beginning to think we are only moving from one yoke to another. Yes its still good enough now.. but will it be later?

In the end, they are going to control everything you own… and I mean everything… even your damn car and soon your home. That is the future of software, and everyone including myself seems to be throwing the ass money to rape me with.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Not sure Netflix is that much better

“I am now beginning to grow tired of the content that is disappearing from Netflix.”

What about the content that’s being added to replace it? I wish they were a bit more upfront with when content will expire, but it’s normally not them making the decision to expire it and the total amount of content available isn’t going down. Unless you start seeing the shows they produced themselves start to expire, it’s not their decision to remove things, but they are making every effort to add them. Personally, while I can get annoyed when some titles disappear, I never fail to find things I want to watch just as much added every month.

Besides – you do realise that the cable companies are subject to exactly the same kind of licencing restrictions that cause this to happen? It’s just not as obvious because the on demand element puts you closer to the issue, whereas someone employed by the channels will make the scheduling decisions with licence expiry in mind. When the content expires from a cable channel, it’s removed in the same way, the mechanism is just slightly obfuscated from your view.

“Yes its still good enough now.. but will it be later?”

Perhaps yes, perhaps no. The tide is turning and once these other companies stop trying to cripple their customers and their rivals, and start to provide decent competition, you should start to have some real choice so that you can move to a competitor. The industry is still in its early days.

“In the end, they are going to control everything you own… and I mean everything… even your damn car and soon your home. “

Netflix are going start controlling cars? Thats… a leap in logic to say the least.

GlyphGryph (profile) says:

Re: Re: Not sure Netflix is that much better

To be honest, the disappearing content is why I cancelled my Netflix account and haven’t grabbed another one since. I don’t hold it against them, of course, but the new content they’ve got really doesn’t appeal to me, and after the tenth time in a row really wanting to watch something and finding it wasn’t on Netflix, I decided it just wasn’t worth the money.

I still don’t have cable though, and don’t plan on ever going back – I’m not worried about Netflix and I don’t hold it against them, because even though I can’t find my stuff there I can find it on Hulu, or Amazon, or Google Play, and simply pay to watch exactly what I want, and I’ve yet to have a month go buy where consuming everything I want to watch bit by bit has even ended up costing me half of what I used to spend on Cable.

There’s plenty of choice other than Netflix, but none of it is particularly good for the Cable giants.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not sure Netflix is that much better

That’s a fair viewpoint, though I would still ask you questions about what you were looking for and why it was not available. For example:

“really wanting to watch something and finding it wasn’t on Netflix”

Was that available on another streaming service, or did you only check Netflix. Was it only available for purchase, or was it available for rental elsewhere. If so, what were the cost differences? If not, do you know why – was it for example regional or format windows, licencing problems with songs used, etc.? Was it a problem with, say, WB refusing to licence content so they can try and launch their own services, or was it something Netflix had removed of their own accord?

I can understand not subscribing to Netflix if they’re not meeting your personal requirements, but place the blame where it belongs. If, say, Seinfeld is what you want to watch but it’s only on Hulu rather than Netflix, that’s the licencing regime at work, not Netflix choosing not to offer it. The owners of that show could offer it to multiple services but they chose to make it exclusive to one licencee.

Anyway, I’m glad you seem to have found a way of working that’s better for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Not sure Netflix is that much better

They as in reference to the evil people controlling the industry not netflix. Maybe I need to spell things out extra special like for ya.

Disappearing content is a legit gripe. If you don’t understand that then you are screwed in the head.

Of course maybe a shill like would finally complain if they replaced your BMW with a 12HP moped and sidecar. It is new after all! Eat it loser.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Not sure Netflix is that much better

“They as in reference to the evil people controlling the industry not netflix. Maybe I need to spell things out extra special like for ya.”

Perhaps. I knew you’d flipped to a completely different subject with that last paragraph, but it was very strange that you went from “I don’t like not finding what i want to watch on Netflix” to “software companies are going to take over the planet”. I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you might have had some kind of a point relating to the issue at hand.

The personal insults you attempt to pile on in your response here are most likely an illustration that you don’t really have one.

“Disappearing content is a legit gripe”

Yes, which is why encouraging the industry to stop making that happen would be a good thing, as well as encouraging competition and a legitimately level playing field. If you’d rather rant about irrelevant subjects that have no bearing on reality, that’s your choice too, I guess.

DannyB (profile) says:

How the Cable TV stole Internet Streaming

Every Who on the Internet liked Netflix a lot…
But the Cable who lived north of Internet, Did NOT!
The Cable HATED Netflix, the whole TV streaming!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his greed was too tight.
But the reason most likely for the copyright pigs
May have been that their ego was six sizes too big.

Whatever the reason, Their heart or their greed,
They stood on the precipice of Cable TV.
Staring down from their cave with a sour, greedy fret,
At the warm lighted screens all over the Internet.

For they knew down on the Internet
Every Who they could see
Was watching Netflix original series
Instead of Cable TV!

And that new streaming content! cable snarled with a sneer,
Streaming TV is popular, it is practically here!
Then they growled with their long fingers nervously drumming,
“I MUST find some way to stop the Streaming from coming!”

For in the future cable knew, all the Who girls and boys,
Would be watching on smart phones, their tablets, gadgets and toys!

Then they got an idea! An awful idea!
The Cable got a horrible, awful idea!
“I know just what to do!” The Cable laughed like a brute.
I’ll call my lawyers”, they snarled, “to file a lawsuit!”

cKarlGo (profile) says:

The very fact that the major broadcasters have not insisted that Nielsen properly track cord-cutting says more about them than Nielsen.

It tells me that the major networks are operating under the “self-licking ice cream cone” model of business analysis and paying Nielsen to tell them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to know to offer programming that the viewing public wants to see.

As broadcast television continues to become less and less relevant, it will remain ever clueless about the self-planted seeds of destruction that have sprouted, flourished and consumed it.

Anon says:


Until Netflix sells ads, who cares what people are watching? (Other than Netflix, and it has the data already). Why would Netflix want to share information? “Your show is very very popular – we’d like to buy the next season too… what will you charge us?” Not a great business model.

What’s really neede is a “play on demand” video service with links into the great vaults of Hollywood and the networks. Want to binge on “My Mother the Car” or “Dukes of Hazzard” or watch everything with Greta Garbo in it? Want to binge watch all the old “Planet of the Apes” or Bruce Lee?

I realize Netflix keeps the price to $8 by limiting the content, but there is probably a huge demand for people to delve into the great repository of dreck produced around the world without having to buy DVD’s or download questionable quality video.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Until...

” “Your show is very very popular – we’d like to buy the next season too… what will you charge us?” Not a great business model. “

The suppliers will have a good idea of how many people are watching any given show, since Netflix will pay them royalties under the terms of the licencing agreement they signed. They will then use that information in any future negotiation. Netflix just don’t break everything down publicly.

“I realize Netflix keeps the price to $8 by limiting the content, but there is probably a huge demand for people to delve into the great repository of dreck produced around the world without having to buy DVD’s or download questionable quality video.”

I doubt the first part is true. Even if it is, what you have to remember is that most of the stuff you’ve just mentioned is owned by one of the major conglomerates that own the cable companies. Companies which have openly refused to licence content to Netflix either out of fear of their model or in an attempt to favour their own poorly made subscription services. Once they get out of that mindset, there should be a lot more availability whether through Netflix or elsewhere, and you’re free to choose the service with the content you personally favour. Netflix are the current market leader, but that won’t always be the case.

Teamchaos (profile) says:

The cable industry doesn't care...

To quote an earlier Tech Dirt article by Mike:

But, I guess, as all the videos here show, they really just don’t give a fuck because they don’t have to.


Nice to see Tech Dirt pointing out that people really do have choices and cable is now getting bitten in the ass by the free market as folks opt for Netflix.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Wow. A B-25 Mitchell bomber just flew low over my house, followed by a B-17 Flying Fortress. I’ve lived on the approach to a major airport for years, so I normally tune out aircraft noises. But those big ‘ol ancient and obsolete and increasingly rare aircraft made a distinctive enough noise that I noticed them from a long way off.

In the age where Netflix and similar online services dominate the news – and rightly so – this is also the only reason why I notice a story about ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox.

Anonymous Coward says:

Comcast and cord cutters

I recently contacted Comcast customer loyalty and attempted to drop the TV portion of my service while keeping the internet service. Besides offering to upgrade my overall service at a higher price, the only lower cost alternatives they gave me were to:

1) Drop my TV portion and drop my speed to 20 mbps


2) Keep my TV portion and keep my speed of 40 mbps

The surprising part of this to me was that it was going to cost the same price either way. So “no TV at a lower speed” and “TV at a higher speed” are the same price at Comcast? wtf?

After giving it some thought, I concluded a likely reason for this is that they know they’re in trouble with subscribers opting for cable TV alternatives (which was exactly my intention) and they’re resorting to shady pricing structures in order to keep said subscriptions up.

I’d expect nothing more from Comcast.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Comcast and cord cutters

That’s not particularly new. When dialup ceased to be a viable option ten (?) years ago I contacted the only high speed provider in the area, Comcast. I could get cable internet for $80 a month, but if I was a Comcast cable TV customer I could get it for $60 a month. And it cost $10 to sign up for the minimal TV package.

Then once a year they would give us a “free” month of the full TV package. Somebody in the house got hooked on some show that wasn’t on the El Cheapo tier, and I was stuck paying for the full ride.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "Won't have the bandwidth"

4k video can be accessed from DSL internet or cable internet because the videos buffer into the computer’s memory. Small pieces can be loaded slowly to make 1 large piece of 4k video (buffering on Youtube, for example)

Live cable uses cable boxes with much less memory and bandwidth. They don’t store as many pieces in as an efficient manner as computers do.

Therefore 4k video live over the air via cable (be it fiber or otherwise) is currently not possible.

Derek Kerton (profile) says:

Drooling and Snores

Does Nielsen count the many hours of TV being viewed by an empty room? Or the many hours where the tube is left on, but people are just playing CNN or Fox “news” as “background music?”

Do they also count the hours of TV being played to drooling people who fell asleep at the remote two shows prior. I remember being woken up by a test pattern on more than a few occasions.

Nielsen can count those viewers, but they’re not watching ads or buying the products.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Drooling and Snores

It has been known for at least my lifetime that Nielsen ratings are rather questionable. They keep being used because there isn’t a source of better data. Also, at least in theory, the errors in Nielsen data happen equally across the board. So when they say X number of people watched a show, that’s almost certainly an overcount. But when they say X% of TV viewers watched a show, that’s likely to be pretty close to accurate.

Advertisers know all of this, and the rates they’ll pay take it into account.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wish Netflix had an antenna to broadcast their content from, local broadcasts are in HD unless the contenet is dated, something I have to pay extra for from the local broadband monopoly. Or perhaps Netflix as an ISP, Google will need some competition in the future. Let us get back to the airwaves like during the golden age of television. I don’t think I will go along with the next big change out of our local monopoly, they almost lost us during the most recent changes, and we are still on the fence at that.

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