Visual of the Week – Is Netflix is a (More Watched) Broadcast Channel?

We had a fun bit of data dropped via Nielsen in August which allows me to update my most popular article of the year, “Netflix is a Broadcast Channel”. Nielsen let us know how viewership looks through the Coronavirus lock downs as of August 2020. Here’s the original 2019 data and the update:

Screen Shot 2020-09-02 at 9.19.51 AMSince I promised this is in visual form, here’s the stacked bar charts…

Screen Shot 2020-09-02 at 9.20.15 AMQuick Insights

First, is this statistically significant?

Yes, tentatively. It all depends on what your confidence interval is, but with their panel of about 1,000 folks, Nielsen can have a margin of error either direction of about 3%. This is right on that border line.

That said, why use a 95% confidence interval? If you use a 90% confidence interval, than year we’re reasonably confident Netflix saw a bump. I’d add, everyone else was flat and next grew or declined. (Except for Disney+, which wasn’t on the platform last time.) That’s hard to interpret as anything but good to great news for Netflix. Contrariwise, if you want 99% certainty, then this is firmly within the margin of error.

So we’ll see how this number grows, but I’m inclined to think it measured a real trend.

Second, why not update your Primetime chart from last time?

You mean this one? Image 1 - Estimates

If this were extrapolated to Primetime, then Netflix has exceeded even CBS and taken the top broadcast spot. (They’d be at 8 million primetime viewers if we used the same math from August.)

First, and simply, I don’t have the linear TV viewing numbers to compare. Broadcast ratings could have increased by a similar rate, so it wouldn’t be apples-to-apples. 

Also, while the 3% increase in Netflix viewing is good, and the 7% surge in streaming video is even bigger, I’m skeptical that viewing came during primetime. Sure, folks can’t go out so TV viewing is likely up across the board at Primetime, but the 7% surge in streaming likely came from elsewhere. I see two options.

Option 1: People watching TV during the daytime. The notable thing about coronavirus is that everyone is sitting at home streaming during work. (Are those two things incompatible? I think so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still happening.)

Option 2: Children. The other group that is probably streaming even more than ever are kids. And children. And teenagers. Again, not during primetime, but throughout the day. And my initial comparison was about primetime viewing. That’s why Disney+ went from not existing last fall to getting 4% share of streaming.

  1. Love your column – Definitely driven from swells outside of Primetime, smaller volume day time viewing and after midnight saw the largest growth while high viewership dayparts like Primetime were up but marginally compared to pre-Covid levels

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