Netflix’s US library halves in four years

For a long time, the American Netflix streaming library has been the gold standard that British TV watchers want at their fingertips – hence the popularity of finding ways around the service’s location locking. But while the UK library has gotten much better since I signed up in 2012, its US counterpart has shrunk by more than 50%.

Those figures come from streaming blog Exstreamist, which quotes sources who worked for the site back in 2012 as saying the site had “close to 11,000 movies and TV shows”. If you run the numbers in uNoGS today, it comes back with 5,287. For reference, a similar UK search shows 3,241 programmes, so we’re closing in – just on a much smaller target.

That’s a pretty dramatic drop for the US, however, and neatly demonstrates what happens when rival networks open their own streaming services. Not only does Netflix have to compete with Amazon Instant in the US, but the likes of HBO Now, Hulu, Showtime, CBS All Access and Univision Now. Understandably, these networks want to acquire/keep some original content of their own to lure additional subscribers, and Netflix has the most to lose.

If nothing else, it does seem to vindicate Netflix’s strategy of pursuing original content such as Orange is the New Black, Bojack Horseman, Stranger Things, Better Call Saul, House of Cards, Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and others. Netflix reckons it will have 600 hours of original content to stream by the end of 2016.

But these shows cost a hell of a lot to make. While Netflix itself is pretty tight-lipped about the costs of original content, TV literary agent Peter Micelli was reported by Variety as saying that “the cheapest show is $3.8m an episode”. The flipside of this, of course, is their marketing budget is relatively small. “They’re also not spending $40 million a show on a marketing campaign. They have a guy in a room who writes an algorithm.”

Still, spending this kind of money means fewer dollars for renewing and buying other networks’ shows. And when you’re paying $500,000 per episode to rebroadcast Friends in a limited number of territories, it makes sense to create your own television on your own terms, with no pesky time limitations involved.

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