Amazon, Netflix and Hulu's Most Popular Shows Revealed

NARCOS S03E08 Still 1 - Publicity - H 2017
Juan Pablo Gutierrez/Netflix

The streamers don't share their ratings, but a new measurement looked at streams, viewers, engagement and more to determine which series have the biggest audiences.

Streaming media is a booming business, sometimes at the expense of more traditional entertainment, as illustrated by the numerous charts below.

Subscription video-on-demand, popularized by Netflix, was an $8.21 billion industry last year and will grow to $14.03 billion by 2021, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Such growth, though, means cable and satellite TV may struggle with customers cutting the cord while younger consumers choose never to subscribe in the first place. There were 16.7 million cord-cutters by 2016, according to eMarketer, and there will be 40.1 million by 2021. There were 32.5 million cord-nevers (Americans who have never subscribed to pay television) in 2016, and that will rise to 41 million by 2021.

Even free, over-the-air broadcast television won’t be immune to the competition from streaming. EMarketer says that the average adult American watched four hours and 10 minutes of TV — be it free, cable or satellite — per day in 2017, but that number will fall to three hours and 47 minutes in 2019. Meanwhile, time spent with digital media was one hour and 10 minutes in 2016, and that will grow to one hour and 26 minutes in 2019.

Of the premium content offered by the Big Three streamers, the most popular shows in September from each were The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), The Man in the High Castle (Amazon) and Narcos (Netflix), according to Parrot Analytics.

Those three streamers are spending wildly to acquire content from the likes of CBS, Warner Bros., Lionsgate and more, as well as produce their own original shows. Netflix, for example, will plans to spend $6 billion this year while Amazon spends $4.5 billion.

Much is made of Netflix’s mounting debt, but Wall Street has rewarded the company for all its spending on content-acquisition; thus a share of Netflix that traded for $179 this week could be had for less than a buck 15 years ago. (On Thursday, Netflix raised the price of its most popular subscription plan by 10 percent.)

As popular as Netflix is, though, YouTube is still the king of streamers, with 186 million users in the U.S. As for social media, Facebook dominates with 166.8 million users as of the end of last year.

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.