By George Grotheer
Netflix, HBO, Prime Video, Disney+.
Apple TV+, Starz, Hulu, Peacock.
You know the names; you probably pay a microscopic percentage of their employees’ salaries. In an increasingly saturated streaming marketplace, it can be hard for viewers to choose what to watch when they crave entertainment. With a bevy of original content and a rich history of critically acclaimed programming, Netflix is particularly well-equipped to withstand the development of new streaming platforms.
The giant maintains a stronghold on SVOD worldwide — with over 183 million paid subscribers (and probably a few million more hangers-on who save the passwords of their coworkers and exes). According to a May 2020 report from Fox Business, over half of all households in the United States hold a subscription to Netflix — keeping it securely atop streaming ranks. That same report says over one-third of U.S. households subscribe to Amazon’s Prime Video service, while about 25% pay for Hulu’s variety of services.
The market has become more diverse in recent years, with the introduction of Apple TV+ and Disney+ in 2019, and the upcoming launch of NBCUniversal’s Peacock. The breadth of the Apple business empire allowed Apple TV+ to burst onto the scene with limited original content to large subscription numbers. Blockbuster franchises, including Star Wars, Marvel, and National Geographic, sent Disney+ skyrocketing to over 50 million subscribers in its first 5 months. Peacock is set to pull some of NBC’s most beloved television programming of the last quarter-century from Netflix’s lineup — including The Office and Friends — shortly after its July 15 launch. Despite holding streaming rights to some of these franchises for much of the last few years, Netflix can retain its spot atop the pile by leaning into use of its best weapon: original content.
Since the release of House of Cards in 2013, Netflix has vastly ballooned its library of programming created in-house — jumping to a whopping 371 new TV series and movies in 2019 alone.
And the expanse of quantity does not come at the expense of quality.
Forbes reported in December 2019 that 19 of the 20 most-streamed TV series of the year came from Netflix (the only exception being Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale). The company’s original content isn’t just getting praise from viewers — critics and award circles are showing increasing favor of Netflix programming. Marriage Story and The Irishman racked up a pile each of nominations during the 2019–20 awards season.
Disney may have the Avengers and the Rebel Alliance under Mouse House jurisdiction; NBCUniversal may soon have The Office and Friends back under the peacock’s tailfeathers. One thing remains clear: Netflix’s high-priced gamble on original content (it invested $15 billion on such programming in 2019, per Fortune magazine) will keep it atop an increasingly crowded streaming market.
George Grotheer is a contributor to 641. and a frequent guest analyst on OBP: On Base Podcast.