Netflix — StatSocial’s Guide to OTT Network Audiences

Sep 10, 2018 | Insights

(Be sure to check out this series’ introductory entry here.)

Back in the 90s, when Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings incurred a $40 late-fee for a single VHS rental, he began to think there must be a better way. Upon learning of DVDs, and how they would not be a niche, cinephile format as laser discs had been, but instead were soon to supplant video tape as the industry-wide format for home video, Hastings had a hunch. His first experiment was simple, he mailed himself a CD out of its case (the format and its durability being presumably equivalent to a DVD). Standard mail, just in an envelope. When the CD arrived at his house, it played completely fine.

Before long the Netflix DVDs-by-mail model was introduced. For a varying monthly fee — your chosen plan dictating the number of DVDs you could have in your possession at once — this model, which had some scoffing at first, revolutionized home video rental to a degree that cannot be adequately summarized here. Singlehandedly, Netflix virtually put video stores — as an industry — out of business.

In a 2005 article in Inc. magazine, Hastings said that the day when video could easily be delivered over the net was something for which they’d been preparing since the start. He explained, “We started investing 1 percent to 2 percent of revenue every year in downloading, and I think it’s tremendously exciting because it will fundamentally lower our mailing costs. We want to be ready when video-on-demand happens. That’s why the company is called Netflix, not DVD-by-Mail.”

He predicted the hard-copy business would dominate for another decade. By 2007, though, their streaming platform had launched. Initially it was available via the web and various services such as the PS3 and Xbox 360. Hulu soon thereafter entered the fray, and competitors came along in the immediate years to follow. Devices such as Roku and AppleTV hit the market — and many TVs started to be sold ready-equipped for streaming, with access to a battery of channels, both pay and free — simplifying the delivery process.

Netflix’s third revolutionary experiment came next: Original programming. First, a show made in collaboration with Norway’s NRK1. Created by and starring Steven Van Zandt of ‘The Sopranos’ and The E Street Band. Van Zandt played an American mobster, similar to his character from HBO’s ‘The Sopranos,’ on the lam in Lillehammer, Norway. A huge hit in Norway, the show — called ‘Lillyhammer’ — was well received by Netflix’s subscribers, indicating that this was a path worth pursuing.

People had already been binge-watching entire seasons of shows in a sitting via DVD, DVR, and pay TV on-demand services, as well as via streaming. What if you could deliver an entire series of brand-new TV all at once? A mere five years later we think nothing of favorite shows being made available to us in this way.

The primary model of Netflix’s original scripted programming was simultaneously introduced. While branded as Netflix originals, their shows are frequently produced in collaboration with another party. This is not to say that they don’t put up a lot of cash and by all accounts provide a creative and commercial guiding hand. They do partner wisely, however.

By 2013 programs such as the horror series, ‘Hemlock Grove,’ and more critically-acclaimed fare such as ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and ‘House of Cards’ had premiered. That year also boasted the long-awaited fourth season of cult-favorite, ‘Arrested Development.’ Fox had canceled ‘Arrested’ in 2006, but through word-of-mouth, and DVD rentals and sales, the show’s audience had grown dramatically in the intervening years.

The freedom the platform provided attracted A-list talent to partner with the service. ‘House of Cards’ — an adaptation of a critically praised BBC series — was the work of Oscar nominated director David Fincher (‘Fight Club,’ ‘Seven,’ ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’), hardcore horror director Eli Roth (‘Hostel,’ ‘Cabin Fever’) was the driving force behind ‘Hemlock Grove.’

Five years into Netflix being a major, award-winning Hollywood player, the opportunity for brands to partner with them in developing content is enormous. Look at the top brands as you peruse the stats below, and consider who Netflix’s most prominent partners have been in generating and / or licensing content.

There are tremendous opportunities here, and a radical change in video marketing strategy — from catchy, silly, easily digestible, ideally viral content to legitimately quality TV programming — is surely underway.

By the end of 2013, Netflix had revealed themselves an innovator and game-changer not once, not twice, but three times. When OTT started to reveal itself definitively as the future last year, Netflix made it known then that it had no interest in entering the live-streaming arena.

They even made an April Fool’s joke of it, announcing via YouTube, on March 31, 2017 — with help from Will Arnett, co-star of ‘Arrested Development,’ and the main voice on one of the network’s animated series, ‘Bojack Horseman’ — that the opposite was true:

The promise made in this video was never fulfilled.

For now, remaining self-contained, and focusing their resources on producing — or co-producing— original on-demand content, and exclusive deals for certain films and TV series produced by other companies, remains the service’s strategy. They’re still in business, the colloquialism isn’t “Hulu and chill,” after all, and they’ve been counted out before, or laughed at for their folly, only to emerge not victorious, but visionary. Doubting the decisions of Netflix’s management is foolish. It’s safer to assume that nobody knows what’s right for Netflix better than they.

Indeed, a recent study found that Netflix has beaten cable, and even YouTube, among Americans, as it’s now the number one source for receiving video content.

The below graph is being borrowed from Variety magazine, who sourced the data from the Cowen proprietary Tracking Survey.

The Basic Demos:

SEX

An explanation of how to read this chart, and all such charts you’ll find on the StatSocial platform: The bar in blue, and the percentage within, represents the social media audience being analyzed (in this case, fans of Netflix). The bar in grey, and the percentage within, represents the baseline. For these entries, that is the average American social media audience. The index score to the right represents the degree to which the corresponding statistic for this audience is either in line with, exceeds, or falls short of the baseline. Index scores consistent with or greater than the baseline are in green, and those that are under-indexed are in red.

We see a danged near even split between men and women here. Women ever-so-slightly under-index against the baseline, but it’s not all that statistically dramatic.

INCOME

From an income perspective, this group again hews close to the baseline. Those earning in excess of $50k a year are slightly more present here than among the average American social media audience. Those earning $100k a year or more exceed the proportion of their ilk found among the average audience by nearly 1%.

AGE

Those between the ages of 18 to 24 over-index here by a notable one-and-three-quarters times. The older brackets find themselves increasingly under-indexed the greater they age. Still, however they may compare to the baseline, a not insignificant 43 ⅘% are ages 35 and up.

BRANDS

In terms of creative partnerships for original series, few have been as fruitful as Netflix’s partnership with Marvel Entertainment (elaborated upon below). Marvel fans dwell among the Netflix throngs to a degree exceeding the baseline by 7 ¼ times.

As for the number two brand, Marvel’s chief competitor, Netflix hasn’t produced any TV shows related to DC’s comics or characters, and they don’t have the next day streaming rights to a lot of these series like Hulu either does or once did, but nonetheless The CW’s crop of DC shows — ‘Arrow,’ ‘The Flash,’ ‘Supergirl,’ ‘Black Lightning,’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ — all have multiple seasons residing in Netflix’s library. Fox’s ‘Gotham,’ is there as well, along with numerous DC films and animated features.

TV SHOWS

In the case of this entry, so many of the most highly indexed shows — in fact eight of the 10 — were already from Netflix’s celebrated slate of original programs, that we decided here to break out the TV shows into two lists. The first, the ten Netflix original series which index most highly in relation to the baseline, and then those programs originating from other networks for which this audience exhibits the deepest affinities.

TOP NETFLIX SHOWS

In a highly publicized move, Disney was said to be pulling their content from Netflix in preparation for their own highly-anticipated entry into the OTT arena (a passing glance just now, though, shows ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Thor: Rangarok ‘ prominently featured on my Netflix front page). The two companies had a very fruitful partnership, launching the lion’s share of the televisual adjunct to Disney’s multi-billion dollar grossing “Marvel Cinematic Universe’ (last year’s ‘Black Panther’ grossed $1.3 billion dollars, and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ grossed over $2 billion).

Five of the items above are products of the Netflix / Marvel collaboration. ‘The Punisher’ is over 18 ¾ times more likely to find fans here than among the average American social media audience. The largely excellent and critically acclaimed ‘Jessica Jones’ finds admirers here to a degree exceeding the baseline by 17 ¾ times.

In addition to the five Marvel series, critics darling ‘House of Cards’ is 13 ⅔ times more guaranteed to find fans here than among the average U.S. social media audience. The top dog on this list is ‘Narcos,’ which has thus far focused on the real-life story of notorious Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, next season will apparently be moving on to a story about Mexico’s drug cartels. This Netflix original finds love here to a degree 23 ¾ times in excess of the baseline.

Black Mirror,’ the ‘Twilight Zone’-esque anthology series created by former Guardian columnist, renowned satirist, and all-around frightfully astute media commentator, Charlie Brooker, found its origins on Britain’s Channel 4. In 2016, Netflix purchased the series, commissioning 12 episodes which it divided into two six-episode seasons. In March of this year it was announced that they had picked up the series for yet another season (the program’s fifth overall). It finds fans among this audience to a degree exceeding the average American social media crowd by nearly 13 ⅔ times.

TOP NON-NETFLIX SHOWS

The comic book theme continues, but in this day and age when analyzing any list of popular entertainment, it’s probably getting to where that may not be so newsworthy. Still, we see Marvel’s chief competitors, DC Comics, represented with The CW’s ‘Supergirl’ and ‘Legends of Tomorrow,’ and Fox’s ‘Gotham.’

FX’s ‘Legion’ is based on a Marvel Comics property, but is not a production of Marvel Studios. It is related to the X-Men universe, and therefore the rights belong to Fox (this is too long a tale to get into here, but regaining the film rights to all of Marvel Comics’ characters is apparently a big factor in Disney’s attempts to purchase the entertainment interests of 21st Century Fox).

Finally, The CW’s revisionist ‘Riverdale’ takes the good, clean apple pie Americana and hijinks of Archie Comics and filters it all through a dark, sinister, David Lynchian lens. It finds favor among this crowd to a degree exceeding the baseline by over 11⅖ times.

HBO’s multiple-Emmy award winning, Julia Louis-Dreyfus starring ‘Veep’ tops the list, with fans of the series over 17 ⅕ more likely to be found among Netflix’s audience than among the average American social media throngs. The pay TV trailblazer and behemoth — wise enough to have been positioning themselves for the wireless future for a few years now (initially with their cable subscription, streaming video adjunct HBO GO, and more recently with HBO NOW) — finds three of their original series on the list above. In addition to ‘Veep,’ there’s the critically acclaimed, fan favorite ‘Westworld,’ as well as ‘True Detective,’ with its nearly universally beloved first season, and its universally divisive second.

SPORTS TEAMS

Conspicuously we find many of the same La Liga and Premier League football clubs we do on a number of the lists in this series. While Netflix may have no live sports plans, they do have much in the way of sports programming. To the chagrin of some, ESPN — perhaps for ESPN+, or in preparation for Disney’s dedicated streaming services — pulled their excellent ’30 in 30‘ documentaries from the platform.

A quick glance, however, reveals documentaries on Cristiano Ronaldo, Pelé, Mike Tyson, and many sports titans and legendary events. Bigger news, though, is that ESPN and Netflix are continuing to partner for the time being, announcing a collaboration on an upcoming 10-part, 10-hour documentary on Michael Jordan.

While Italy’s Juventus F.C. are ever-so-slightly under-index against the baseline of the average U.S. social crowd, Netflix has produced an original documentary series on the team — who now counts the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo among their ranks — called ‘First Team: Juventus.’

YOUTUBE CHANNELS

Juanpa Zurita, the Mexican, one-time Vine sensation, now finds himself one of the biggest Spanish-language influencers in the sphere of social media. His YouTube channel having over eight-and-a-half million subscribers, yet fans can be found here to a degree exceeding the baseline by what’s approaching nine times.

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Watch this space, as this survey of the platforms most eager to get you cutting that cord has more to come.

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