It can certainly feel like everyone’s subscribed to Netflix — when a show catches on, it can dominate the conversation for weeks at a time or even longer. But unlike the enormous network television events of decades past (think the Seinfeld finale or American Idol during its heyday), Netflix exists in a far more splintered climate of media consumers, and not every household is a subscriber.
According to a recent CivicScience study, 65% of Americans are currently subscribed to Netflix, with nearly 80% of adults having used the video-on-demand service at some point. An elusive 17% of Americans haven’t used Netflix before and aren’t interested in doing so at all.
So who are these Netflix-resistant Americans? They’re similarly distributed by residential area to current subscribers, but a bit more likely to live in rural areas. But compared to Americans who haven’t used Netflix but plan to in the future, they’re 60% more likely to live in cities.
The pandemic has fueled remarkable growth for streaming services’ subscriber bases, and the CivicScience data gestures toward that reality: Americans working remotely or as usual, overwhelmingly make up Netflix’s current subscriber base. Americans who aren’t subscribed and don’t plan to are more than twice as likely to not be working than subscribers, and non-users who plan to subscribe are even more likely still.
Most Netflix shows attain popularity by way of the online watercooler, so it shouldn’t be surprising that an overwhelming majority of non-subscribers with no interest in joining (83%) are not at all influenced by social media in determining what to watch.
Non-subscribers without interest are predictably the most likely to watch live television on cable or satellite — but more than half of all current subscribers also turn to cable or satellite first. So for many subscribers, it’s an either/or proposition rather than pure cord-cutting. Interestingly enough, nearly 10% of non-subscribers turn to online live streaming for live television. So while Netflix may seem like the default streaming service, there’s a notable number of streamers who opt-out.
Netflix and HBO Max are often positioned as antagonists to the theatrical experience, but Netflix subscribers are also the most comfortable with visiting a movie theater within the next few weeks. Perhaps it correlates to the broader trepidation among older Americans with returning back to normal, but a majority of non-Netflix subscribers won’t be comfortable with returning to theaters in the next four months.
While it remains unclear if streaming and theaters will be able to peacefully coexist in the long term, there will always be some Americans who aren’t on board with every service. Netflix has still captured a majority of consumers — but it’s worth watching where the skeptics take their business as the streaming wars intensify.