Netflix Is Responsible For A Huge Decline In TV Viewership, Here's How Much

When conversations about Netflix come up, they’re usually about one of two things: how great the service’s original programming is or how Netflix’s viewership compares with that of linear television. Considering hard numbers from Netflix are almost impossible to come by, we likely won’t know specifics in the near future, but a new study shows that the streaming giant was responsible for half of the decline in TV viewing times for the U.S. in 2015. Wowzers.

Now, that’s a huge semi-victory for Netflix, as far as its ongoing domination goes, even if it doesn’t look like that big of a boost when the percentages are mentioned. The overall decline in TV watching was 3 percent in 2015, with Netflix accounting for 1.5 percent of that loss of viewers, according to the study from Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathason (via Zap2It). When you’re talking about billions and billions of viewing hours, though, any percentage is worthy of attention.

It was calculated that U.S. subscribers streamed an estimated 29 billion hours of Netflix’s library in 2015 – the hallway fight in Daredevil had to be at least a billion of those hours, right? – and that number represented 6 percent of the overwhelming total of Live+7 TV viewing hours as reported by Nielsen. That is up from 4.4 percent in 2014, and Nathanson is of the belief that the total could be as high as 14 percent by 2020. That could be a bawdy prediction, or it could be a guarded one. Kind of hard to know at this point, with TV networks just getting into the streaming swing of things. Not to mention the FCC opening up cable programming to come from places other than cable companies’ cable boxes. Things are going to get weird in the future.

Now, this isn’t to say that Netflix is doing better than all TV networks, or that every single channel saw a decline in 2015 that Netflix capitalized on. Places like AMC and Discovery saw celebratory upticks in viewership over the past year, though other networks like MTV and FX lost a lot of viewers. And things got even more noteworthy when the broadcast networks came into it.

According to the research, CBS viewership was 42 percent lower for Netflix subscribers as compared to non-subscribers. Fox saw a 35 percent drop in subscribers vs. non-subscribers, with ABC and NBC rounding it out with 32 percent and 27 percent drops, respectively. And that will likely only get more one-sided once Netflix finds a way to capitalize on older demographics that are less likely to make the jump to streaming.

Netflix has a ton of stuff coming over the next year, including more Fuller House, more Marvel shows like Daredevil and Luke Cage, and classic series reboots like Lost in Space and One Day at a Time. Plus everything else. So while there are no tombstones being ordered for traditional television viewing just yet, the ground does seem to be ripe for digging. What do you guys think?

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.