Analyst: Netflix Now the 15th Most-Watched TV 'Network' in U.S.

10:52 AM PST 01/04/2012 by Georg Szalai
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BTIG's Richard Greenfield says it would be No. 2 in homes that subscribe to Netflix — second only to CBS.

NEW YORK - Netflix would now be the 15th most-watched TV "network" in the U.S. and could be the second most-watched in Netflix homes, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

His math is based on news from Netflix earlier in the day that its subscribers streamed more than 2 billion hours of TV shows and movies in the fourth quarter.

"Netflix must be eating into traditional TV viewing time," Greenfield argued. "Netflix streaming usage is exploding and is far, far bigger than traditional media executives give it credit for."

Given that a vast majority of the firm's streaming still happens in the U.S., Greenfield estimated that "Netflix is actually number 15 with 666 million hours monthly or 2 billion per quarter — our prior analysis estimated number 25." That would on average equate to 1,905 minutes of Netflix viewing per month per subscriber, or 64 minutes per sub per day, or 32 hours per sub per month.

Looking at Nielsen data for TV networks, Greenfield highlighted that after the top 15 channels, monthly viewing hours are below 500 million. "With an estimated 667 million hours of viewership per month in October, Netflix would rank as the 15th most-watched 'network,' " he said. "Netflix had more hours of viewing in October than FX, HGTV and History and had more than twice the viewer hours of CNN, Discovery, MSNBC and BET."

The analyst called that "pretty amazing, given that Netflix is only in 21 million homes."

Using just 21 percent of the Nielsen monthly hours viewed in the country's roughly 100 million pay TV homes to adjust fully distributed networks down to the number of homes with Netflix, the streaming video provider "would be the number 2 'network' in homes that subscribe to Netflix — second to only CBS," Greenfield wrote.

On that basis, "the major broadcast networks' monthly hours viewed range from 515 million (Fox and NBC) to 600 million for ABC and 700 million for CBS," he calculated. "After the four major broadcast networks (with their affiliate groups), the next-largest network would be Disney Channel at only 265 million hours. ESPN would be 210 million, TBS 845 million, FX 105 million, etc."  

However, Greenfield also said that looking at aggregate TV viewing in the 100 million pay TV homes, Netflix represents only 2.4 percent of total time spent watching. "While Netflix may be very popular in Netflix homes, it is rather meaningless when put into the context of total television viewing," he said.

As of 1:45 p.m. ET, Netflix's stock was up 6.6 percent at $77.02, giving the company a market value of $4.2 billion.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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