HBO vs. Netflix: Has Stranger Things changed things for Netflix?

9 September, 2016

Image: Game of Thrones, HBO

Earlier this month, a digital original series was the most in-demand title in the United States for the first time ever.

Stranger Things surpassed Game of Thrones to become the most popular title after its demand increased by 8% following the announcement of its second season. Not even House of Cards or Orange is the New Black could take the top spot with their highly-anticipated season releases, but Stranger Things managed it more than a month after its premiere. As found in last newsletter’s analysis, Stranger Things’ sustained demand is unusual for digital original series and makes it a valuable show over time for Netflix.

With this milestone, it is time to revisit our analyses comparing HBO and Netflix titles. Our first report, from September 2015, ranked the top five titles from HBO, Netflix, and Amazon in three markets. We found that Amazon lags behind the other two in terms of demand for their content, while Game of Thrones singlehandedly propels HBO ahead of Netflix with more than twice as much demand as the next-most popular series. A second report, from December 2015, compared the demand for Game of Thrones and top Netflix shows across the globe. Out of 53 markets, Game of Thrones had more demand than any Netflix title in 39 of them, establishing itself as the global leader. However, has the arrival of Stranger Things been enough to challenge HBO’s supremacy?

In September 2015, Game of Thrones was the top show in Australia, the United Kingdom, and The United States, with only Orange is the New Black in Australia anywhere near it in terms of demand.

We repeat the same analysis by finding the top five shows on HBO, Netflix, and Amazon during August 2016. Now, Game of Thrones and Stranger Things vie for the top spot in all three markets:

In Australia, the two top shows have nearly the same demand but Stranger Things is slightly ahead. It has a clearer lead in the United Kingdom, while over the entire month of August Game of Thrones has slightly more demand than Stranger Things. In addition to Stranger Things, this year features new shows in the top five for all platforms: The Get Down for Netflix, Vice Principals for HBO, and Ripper Street for Amazon. While overall demand for the top shows is higher this year, Amazon top titles still have less demand than all of HBO and Netflix’s top titles.

Last year, HBO had the highest average demand across the top five titles; if Game of Thrones was excluded, HBO and Netflix had nearly the same demand. This year, since both HBO and Netflix have an outlier title, we include both Game of Thrones and Stranger Things in the platform averages:

In August, Netflix has slightly more average demand than HBO in Australia and the United Kingdom, though HBO is still ahead in the United States. Since both platforms had outliers with similar demand, this result suggests that Netflix content has become more popular over the past year. Demand for Netflix jumped by about 5.00 Demand Rating™ in all markets but demand for HBO only increased significantly in the United States: while Netflix has grown globally, HBO has failed to expand in international markets equally to its growth in the United States. However, demand for all three platforms (including Amazon) has increased, indicating that they are producing even more quality, in-demand content than last year.

The first analysis only dealt with three markets, but the second analysis compared Game of Thrones to Netflix content around the world. That report, in December 2015, considered demand in 53 markets; now, we use demand from 110 markets.

Though we found that Netflix increased its demand in Australia and the United Kingdom so that Stranger Things has more demand than Game of Thrones, other international markets have not behaved in the same way. In fact, Game of Thrones has increased its share of markets from 68% to 89%: only 12 countries preferred Stranger Things.

Several major English-language markets—the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand—in addition to some African markets are the only places with more demand for Stranger Things than for Game of Thrones. One reason for this difference from the picture in December 2015 is that Game of Thrones is currently coming off of its sixth season, which had significantly more demand than the fifth season in 2015. As a result, its demand even now is higher than it was at this time last year meaning that other titles, even Netflix hits, have to be much more successful in order to overtake it. Stranger Things only just surpassed Game of Thrones’ demand in the United States, its home country, so it is not too surprising that it lags behind in most other international markets.

So, has Netflix overtaken HBO? While Stranger Things has more demand than Game of Thrones in some major markets, raising Netflix’s average above HBO, it has not achieved this in the majority of countries. In the United States, Stranger Things may have overtaken Game of Thrones last week, but the monthly averages still have Game of Thrones and HBO on top. Netflix has produced a worthy challenger to HBO’s crown, but the incredibly high demand for Game of Thrones’ last season means that HBO remains the leading platform for in-demand content.

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