I SAID IT FIRST: Netflix loses its crown

Back in 2016 I wrote an opinion piece called “Tipping point for Netflix?” I’m pretty sure that was the first time I suggested that Netflix was about to lose its place as the premier streaming provider. It wasn’t the only time, though: I returned to that well back in 2017 and again in 2018. And now, it’s pretty clear I was right.

Don’t just listen to me…

According to Variety, Netflix is no longer the #1 source of streaming traffic. They’re careful to pepper their article with all sorts of weaselly explanation. I’ll try to boil it down for you. Netflix, which for several years has been the #1 source of streaming video on the internet, isn’t. Not anymore.

Netflix traffic now accounts for 12.6% of all streaming traffic, down from 19.1%. Yes, the amount of video has grown. Yes that’s still pretty impressive. But it’s not enough to capture the #1 spot.

As Variety points out, Netflix still didn’t lose to a single app. Although, I project it will at some point. The number one source of streaming video is now “operator-supplied video” in other words, on-demand delivered over the internet by companies like DIRECTV and Comcast. Number two is “HTTP video,” in other words videos you watch in browsers. Because this is a family site, I’ll presume they mean YouTube and not other sites you may be familiar with. (I don’t judge.)

Call it what you will. The fact is that just last year more people streamed Netflix than any other source of streaming video. Now that’s not true.

Netflix’s big problems

At this point in its history I think Netflix faces two problems. Surprisingly, its price isn’t one of them; people seem all too willing to pay that. No, the problem is content.

Problem 1: Catalog content

Netflix has already started to lose a lot of catalog content. For the last five years they’ve been happy to let some of the biggest blockbusters go to Hulu, Prime Video, and others. I used to think of Netflix as a one-stop destination for anything I wanted to watch. Now, finding a recent movie means searching several apps. More often than not, I don’t land on Netflix.

Problem 2: Original content

While they’ve been more than happy to let good quality movies go elsewhere, Netflix has been producing a wildly diverse array of original content. Perhaps a dozen series, perhaps fewer, are any good. Most are not. Most are just movies that would have gone direct to VHS in another era. Unlike HBO, you just can’t trust Netflix to provide you with good original content. This “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” philosophy has hurt the brand.

For me, the biggest indicator…

…isn’t the data from Variety. I have a close friend, I’ll call him “Gerard.” He loves TV. TV is his life. I have to believe that he’s watched more TV in his life than most people ever will. And, he’s an encyclopedic source for TV information.

I wouldn’t say Gerard is a discriminating TV watcher. He watches a lot of different things and enjoys many different genres. And yet the other day, Gerard said to me,

I dropped (Netflix) a couple months ago and haven’t looked back.

Let me tell you, if they’ve lost him they’ve lost everything. And, it’s pretty clear they’ve lost him.

I have to agree. I rarely watch Netflix and with Orange is the New Black gone and Grace and Frankie on its final season, I’m not sure why I should keep paying for it. I hate to say it because I’ve railed on Disney+ for years, but it looks like it’s going to be a better value. With 10,000 hours of catalog material from the Warner vault, HBO Max is certainly going to be a better value.

So long, Netflix. You killed Blockbuster and now other services are killing you. I’d say it’s the circle of life, but I just checked. Apparently you can’t stream The Lion King on Netflix any more. Yep, that sounds about right.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.