Netflix has, for the first time, surpassed cable in total subscribers according to Leichtman Research. US cable companies have 48.61 million subscribers while Netflix has just hit 50.85 million. The numbers don’t count minor cable networks, which could in themselves amount to 5% of total cable customers.
For many this won’t be a surprise. Let’s be honest, with Netflix having doubled its subscriber base – adding 27 million subs – over the last five years there was always going to come a time when it beat other services.
And the good news for cable is that this isn’t having a massively detrimental effect on their numbers either. While cable subs are down by 4 million in the same five years that Netflix has seen huge growth, that’s not a massive drop off. It’s also worth bearing in mind that cable TV makes up only 50% of total TV viewership in pay TV. That said, Q1 2017 shows a net loss in subscriptions while Q1 2016 saw cable grow a little.
Satellite TV is doing okay, with around 38 million subscribers. Dish Network added 318,000 customers in Q1 with Direct TV stalling with gains that didn’t outpace customer loses. Satellite is still growing faster than cable though.
Faster still though are the internet-delivered services like Sling TV and Direct TV now which have added 350,000 in Q1. These services now have 1.7 million customers between them, and it’s likely that this segment will continue to see growth as customers move away from cable TV.
In total there are 93,319,187 subscribers to cable, satellite and internet streaming services in the US, which account for 95% of pay TV viewers. Netflix certainly isn’t going to hit 100m US subscriptions anytime soon, and it’s likely that it will hit a wall of some sort eventually. But if the service continues to improve and offer diverse programming it’s likely that customers will feel as I do – that it’s worth the modest monthly fee to have access to a library of great content.