Commentary

Going By The Numbers For Netflix And HBO

In the media business world -- as virtually everywhere else in the business world -- greed is good. Even when it comes to all kinds of data.

Netflix was hoping to add 2.5 million subscribers for its second quarter; it only added 1.7 million. And investors did what they usually do in response to that kind of news: they pushed down the price of the stock in a big way.

Netflix only added 160,000 U.S. domestic subscribers (instead of the 500,000 it was expecting), and 1.5 million in the rest of the world.

Now you know why executives at CBS All Access, Sling TV, and no doubt countless of others in the new OTT space don’t always like talking about such stuff. Then again, the parent companies of those two OTT mentioned -- CBS and Dish Network -- have other big business issues to talk about.

But Netflix is different. It’s a company investors have rewarded with seemingly ever higher stock price and credit for big TV disruption, a most visible leader of the new video world.

Stock market investors are always looking for a reason to remind young, cool digital companies that though they may have captured the imagination of many, digital media stardom can quickly fade. (Hello, Twitter! Hello, Yahoo!)

HBO may be Netflix’s closest competitor.  On the same day of Netflix’s misstep to analysts, a different kind of data report from HBO says viewership of its shows continues to improve when one includes all delayed time-shifting video and digital viewing on the HBO Now and HBO Go apps and other platforms.

For example, HBO says, for the just-completed sixth season of “Game of Thrones,” the series averaged 25.1 million viewers across all platforms, up nearly five million viewers from its 20.2 million average in season five.

Netflix? Well, you know how the company feels about revealing that kind of data. That’s a no-go. HBO, as part of Time Warner, isn’t a separately traded public company as Netflix is. But HBO has no problem releasing viewership data and subscriber digital data. HBO Now now has 1 million subscribers. For traditional pay TV -- cable, satellite, and telco --it also has 49 million HBO subscribers.

How much -- or how little -- data does one need to make a media business analysis?

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