Led by analyst Todd Juenger, who has an “outperform” rating on Netflix stock, the report looked at viewing in the U.S., Brazil, UK, Germany, France, Italy, India, Malaysia, Japan and Korea from March 4 to September 20. It used the top 10 list that Netflix has phased in recently as an on-screen feature for subscribers, and through “brute force” ranked shows across all 10 countries to create a “master top 20.” The rankings were determined with a point system reflecting how long and at what position a given show spent on the various countries’ localized top 10 lists.
The master list across all 10 counties was topped by reality series Too Hot to Handle, followed in order by Money Heist, The Last Dance, The Umbrella Academy and Dynasty, with 19 of the top 20 being originals. In the U.S., originals comprised 15 of the top 20 most popular shows, with Outer Banks coming out on top.
Juenger, a longtime Netflix bull, has favored the view from Netflix management that too much is made of the importance to the streaming giant of licensed shows like The Office and Grey’s Anatomy. With longtime staples like Friends and Disney’s Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar movies leaving the platform to be re-deployed by rival streaming services in recent months, some skeptics expected Netflix to suffer.
While viewing of licensed fare remains significant in terms of total viewing time across the board, it is not a driver of customer acquisitions. Netflix is continuing to aggressively boost spending on originals, injecting hundreds of them a year into its offering at a cost of $15 billion in 2019. The investment has resulted in subscriber gains, especially during COVID-19. In the first half of 2020, the company added 26 million global subscribers.
Netflix has released select viewership stats for a handful of film and series titles in recent quarters, but usually over a more limited period than the 6-month span tracked by Bernstein. The company also favors global numbers, rather than focusing on 10 key markets. Netflix will report its third-quarter results next month, and is likely to include a new batch of viewership insights.
Most of Bernstein’s global top 20 consists of scripted shows originally produced in English. Non-English content (generally a mix of Spanish-language and local fare) was an important part of most Top 10 lists, but more as a complement to English-language programming.
Determining what qualifies as a Netflix original is not a straightforward process, Juenger conceded.
“Our criteria for selecting if a show was an original was to see if there was the Netflix logo on the cover of the show ,” Junger wrote, conceding that making that call is “trickier than it may seem at first.” Some shows are designated as “Netflix Originals” but appear on other platforms via co-production partnerships. One example is Bodyguard, which was a Netflix Original globally – except in the UK, where it aired on the BBC. Other examples include shows like Star Trek: Discovery and The Last Dance, which were Netflix originals outside the U.S. (but not inside the U.S., where they were on CBS All Access and ESPN, respectively.)
Juenger said Japan and Korea had markedly lower percentages of originals, with Japan at 50% and Korea at 25%. The ratio “is probably a function of both a relative lack of Netflix originals produced locally in those countries, in language, as well as a strong, particularly local TV culture,” he concluded.
One other element factors in when assessing Netflix activity in Asia. “After a couple of months we couldn’t find a Top 10 list in the websites of Netflix for Asian countries,” Juenger wrote. “We believe this has more to do with the company avoiding ‘industrial espionage’ by global and local competitors than anything else. Those countries are still in an earlier stage of SVOD when compared to the developed Western world, so it makes sense to us that Netflix doesn’t want its top competitors to learn what is resonating best with viewers in those geographies – at least not before Netflix can become dominant in those places as well.”