Streaming service subscriptions are up significantly in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2017, with Netflix adding about 1.4 million subscribers, while cable companies lost about 760,000 from Jan.1 to March 31.
At the current rate, cable companies will be surpassed just by Netflix in terms of total U.S. subscriber count by this Christmas.
Cable companies are down to approximately 51.3 million TV users as of mid-May while American Netflix users are up to about 50.8 million. With a spread of only about 500,000 users, it’s likely that we will see those numbers flip flop just after the start of summer.
This comes at a time when most analysts predicted Netflix to surpass cable sometime in mid-2018 in the U.S. The huge losses sustained by the cable industry in the first 90 days of 2017 (about 1.5% of all subscribers ended their subscriptions) has moved this date up considerably, especially since the first quarter is usually flat or slightly negative for the cable industry
Worldwide, Netflix has passed the 100 million subscriber mark and continues its steady growth both domestically and abroad, being available in every country other than China, North Korea and Syria. It’s likely that Netflix will be licensing their content to Chinese companies later this year, with the eventual goal of a complete entrance into the country.
Cable companies that have diversified into other streaming services or that also exist as an internet provider will have a much easier time surviving the next decade. If the current rate of subscriber loss keeps up, cable companies are going to need to make massive changes to their structure in order to stay relevant.
If a streaming service such as Netflix wanted to effectively eliminate cable competition, they would probably have to score exclusive distribution rights from the four major sports leagues in the U.S. Cable subscriptions would drop by millions in the following quarters, with the bulk of those drops going to Netflix.
In reality, that might be too big of a bite for Netflix to take right now, broadcasting contracts are extremely lucrative for sports leagues and most of them also have their own streaming services good for every game. Integrating those within the Netflix platform could be the real death knell for cable TV.