Understanding new rivals will help broadcasters win the battle

My brain started to hurt when analysing the very selective viewing data that Netflix released the other week.

Sex Education’s 40 million views in its first four weeks of release seems pretty impressive – the Eleven Film series was watched during that period by about 30% of the SVoD giant’s 130 million global subscribers, by my reckoning, which feels like fantastic penetration.

Some 10 million global views for World Productions’ Bodyguard over the same period is harder to quantify: it is not available here in the UK, where it is still racking up iPlayer views after attracting 15 million viewers when it was going out weekly. Context is everything when it comes to measuring programme performance.

But the big thing I have taken away from Netflix’s sudden bout of transparency is its claims around cumulative viewing in the US.

There, it is responsible for 100 million hours of content consumption a day, out of a total of 1 billion hours – which more easily translates to Netflix having a 10% share of US viewing.

For context, if Netflix were to hit that level of viewing in the UK, it would be well ahead of BBC2 and broadly comparable to Channel 4 and Channel 5 combined.

“It is stating the obvious that traditional broadcasters face powerful new adversaries, but quantifying the scale of that challenge is vital”

So is it? Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to say – but Netflix’s UK viewing share appears to be genuinely significant. Barb estimates that 41% of all British households (11.7 million) pay for an SVoD service, with Netflix leading the way with some 9.7 million subscribers.

At the same time, the ratings service says unidentified use of TV sets now accounts for one-fifth (20%) of viewing.

That constitutes time spent viewing on Amazon Prime and Now TV, and playing games and watching DVDs, as well as viewing of Netflix – but it feels like the latter is really driving the growth, and it is not hard to imagine it is closing in on a similar viewing share to the US.

It is stating the obvious that traditional broadcasters face powerful new adversaries, but quantifying the scale of that challenge is vital. The industry needs to respond strategically through the type of content it creates, and structurally in how it makes that programming available.

ITV is set to update the market with its plans to get into the SVoD game in the next few weeks, and it will be fascinating to see whether it has convinced any of the other PSBs to join forces.

Chris Curtis

Fresh thinking could also help with their existing VoD services: in the same batch of analysis, Barb revealed bumper SVoD viewing takes place on Sunday nights, as subscribers binge on box sets.

Could that be the new battleground if broadcasters are prepared to offer up their very biggest new series in one hit?

Chris Curtis is the editor in chief of Broadcast