MoffettNathanson Research estimates the growing subscription video-on-demand service’s share of the U.S. viewing on a total yearly hourly basis is about 6% -- versus 4% in 2014. This would make it larger than the smallest cable network companies and "smaller than seven largest cable and broadcast conglomerates," said Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst, of MoffettNathanson.
Netflix's total viewing hours -- 29.1 billion -- are greater than cable network TV groups including A+E Networks, Scripps Networks Interactive, Univision, AMC Networks and Starz. Of this group, only Scripps and AMC witnessed increasing viewing hours during the year -- to 21.4 billion and 13.9 billion respectively.
A+E had the biggest decline, sinking 14% to 25.4 billion.
Netflix's 2015 estimate of 29.1 billion viewing hours in the U.S. is up 32% from 22.1 million in 2014. All this occurred as traditional TV hours fell by 3% in 2015 to 491.8 billion viewing hours.
But the researchers do not believe Netflix is the primary reason for some of traditional TV’s declines. “We calculate that, in an imperfect analog, Netflix sourced 50% of the decline in measured live plus seven linear viewing,” writes Nathanson.
MoffettNathanson says viewing hours include live viewing of TV stations and networks, time-shifted viewing from DVRs, and some video-on-demand -- all rolled up into Nielsen’s live program plus seven days of time-shifting metric. The survey notes that this doesn’t include Nielsen-measured authenticated tablet viewing or out-of-home usage.
While many analysts have talked up Netflix as a massive TV game-changer, Nathanson is more tempered: “Currently, Netflix is a source of industry pain, but not necessarily a cause of industry death.” He estimates Netflix will grow to represent over 14% of all viewing by 2020.