The markets were tough on Netflix last week after the company reported its first net U.S. subscriber loss in eight years. Most analysts agree that price increases were the most logical culprit, though fears of competition from other emerging streaming services could represent a longer-term risk to Netflix.

One factor worth watching in CivicScience data is a noticeable – if nascent – trend related to sentiment toward Netflix’s original content and its competitors’. As seen in the chart below, Netflix has enjoyed a remarkable level of superiority over Amazon Prime and Hulu since we began tracking them in 2014. 

Dating back to the first quarter of 2015, Netflix (at 88%) bested Hulu (7%) and Amazon Prime Video (5%) as the perceived leader in original programming content. And, as Amazon moved past Hulu in early 2015, Netflix remained high on its perch above both services.

A Tiny Crack in the Armor

But, you can see a subtle trend beginning mid-2018 and accelerating in the first 2+ quarters of 2019. In the latest CivicScience data, Netflix has the #1 rated original content among 77% of U.S. adults, a decline of 11% from its peak; while Amazon has climbed to 15%, a gain of 10% from its low-point. Yes, Netflix’s programming is still over 5X more revered than Amazon’s but the gap is slowly eroding. Hulu has remained relatively steady. 

One of the biggest factors influencing these results is the fact that Netflix has a significantly larger audience. According to recent CivicScience data, 63% of U.S. adults identify as Netflix viewers, while just 38% watch Amazon Prime. However, when we look only at U.S. adults who use both services, the gap between Netflix and Amazon Prime shrinks a little further. Among that group, Netflix has the superior original content with 75% and Amazon with 21% (and Hulu at 4%). That’s still an over 4-to-1 tilt in Netflix’s favor but it’s enough to see the trend.

The Netflix Horizon

It’s hard to be critical of Netflix after just one less-than-stellar earnings report, especially when they remain so dominant among their peer group. But as that peer group grows – with new streaming offerings from Disney, Viacom, AT&T, and others coming hard and fast – the potential headwinds will grow as well. Maintaining its superiority in original programming will be a critical asset if Netflix hopes to fend off its competitors. 

CivicScience will be tracking that entire landscape, every minute of every day.