When it comes to streaming services, Netflix is undeniably king, and even its closest competitors don't even come close to matching its numbers. A few years ago, the idea of Netflix somehow overtaking cable companies as well as Hulu and Amazon might have sounded preposterous, but the streaming giant has continued to grow even despite price hikes. Now, the numbers for the first quarter of 2017 are in, and Netflix has officially become bigger than cable.
In the first quarter of 2017, Netflix counted 50.85 million subscribers, whereas cable can only claim 48.61 million subscribers. While cable obviously still has a huge number of subscribers, Leichtman Research Group reports that it took the combined subscriber bases of Comcast, Charter, Altice, Mediacom, Cable ONE, and other major private companies to hit 48 million. Netflix all on its own beats all of its cable competition combined and quite thoroughly trounces the runner up, which is Comcast with 22.5 million subscribers.
Netflix is notoriously stingy with sharing its numbers when it comes to ratings and viewership, so we've never been able to definitively compare how many people are watching Netflix series compared to how many people are sticking with cable series. Of course, cord-cutting has been growing in popularity as consumers have discovered convenient TV options that don't require a cable package, and Netflix is constantly debuting new originals, but the numbers for the first quarter of 2017 are still rather staggering. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' comparison of cable TV to horse travel back in 2014 suddenly feels much more accurate, and we have to wonder now if his prediction that the age of broadcast TV will be over by 2030 will come to pass.
The latest numbers show that the cord-cutting trends of recent years haven't changed in 2017. Cable has been losing subscribers steadily, and a significant number of Netflix subscribers back in 2015 claimed that they had already, were planning to, or were considering giving up cable and sticking with just Netflix. It seems that many of them did indeed ditch cable.
It should be interesting to see if Netflix can possibly sustain its dominance in the TV market. While the streaming service can boast a wide variety of originals, and its library of TV shows and movies is vast, there are some shows that can only be viewed on a week-to-week basis. Series like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are vastly popular, and they both release one episode at a time while seasons are airing. Cable may need to find ways to adapt to the new age as soon as possible if they want to remain competitive in the TV game. Only time will tell if cable will recover.