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Everyone hates Netflix, so why is it still number one?
It can be lonely at the top, especially when everyone’s gunning for you. Global streamer Netflix has been in the news a lot lately, and often for all the wrong reasons. After years of enjoying its top spot in the formerly sparsely populated streaming field, the company finally lost some subscribers earlier this year (to the tune of 430,000 in the U.S., no less). But more than that, it now appears to have lost the faith of the viewing public, with recent polls showing that Netflix ranks last for value.
That may sound counterintuitive, as Netflix remains the king of streaming. It’s still seen as invaluable to its subscribers. And it still boasts the biggest user base of any streamer, by a lot.
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So, what’s with all the griping online? Why the dip in subscribers? Are we seeing the beginning of the end for Netflix? The streamer may be getting under people’s skin with recent price hikes and less-than-exciting announcements, not to mention a dwindling library. But it’s not out of the race. Not even close. Let’s dig into those numbers and break down where we stand in the streaming wars.
Netflix is ranking last for value
So, what exactly do we mean when we say Netflix ranks last for value?
It’s pretty much just what it sounds like. According to Whip Media’s 2022 Streaming Satisfaction Report, Netflix users have a real love/hate relationship with the service. While 31% of subscribers in the U.S. said they would keep the service if they could only have one video streaming subscription, it ranked dead last for “value satisfaction.” That puts it behind Disney Plus, HBO Max, Apple TV Plus, Hulu, Peacock, Paramount Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and Discovery Plus.
Netflix is everyone's must-have and least liked subscription.
This means Netflix is number one as the must-have streamer, and dead last for value. It’s worth noting, though, that Netflix’s ranking as must-have streamer dropped a full 10 percentage points from its position in the 2021 survey, with HBO Max slowly catching up — and also occupying the top spot for value.
Considering it launched in 2020, HBO Max is making up for lost time. Newer streamers come with a certain amount of uncertainty. Quiby and CNN Plus didn’t even last a year, and even HBO Max has had some false starts, with Warner Bros. trotting out HBO Go and HBO Now before starting fresh. New players may be getting out of their slump though.
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There are plenty of reasons to be disappointed in Netflix
It’s no mystery why customers don’t see Netflix as delivering on value. A large majority (69%) of former Netflix customers cite price increases as the reason they’ve ditched the service, according to Whip Media’s findings.
Current subscribers unsatisfied with the value of the service are likely also feeling the crunch after a price hike earlier this year. The premium tier now goes for $19.99 per month, which is a hefty price tag for anyone balancing a few streaming subscriptions.
As you may have guessed, money is a big factor.
There are other reasons to doubt Netflix’s value in a crowded space. While the service used to boast major prestige dramas like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, and more, it’s a much more mixed bag these days. There’s still prestige programming like The Crown or last year’s Best Picture Oscar nominee The Power of the Dog, but it’s mixed in with all kinds of cheap reality TV like Sexy Beasts or forgettable sitcoms like The Ranch. There’s still probably something for everyone, but a lot of shows get canceled one or two seasons in, and quality is never guaranteed.
Added to that, Netflix’s library titles are being poached by their original owners now that the likes of Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros., and NBCUniversal have their own streaming services.
On the business side, Netflix has announced plans to crack down on password sharing and to roll out ad-supported subscription tiers. None of that screams “added value,” if you ask me, and the chatter online suggests subscribers aren’t impressed either.
Lastly, Netflix has courted controversy in recent years. The company has staunchly supported its ties to comedian Dave Chappelle and a series of transphobic jokes in his recent comedy specials produced by the streamer. While presenting itself as a faithful ally to the LGBTQ+ community, Netflix has firmly stood by its content strategy and signed new contracts with the comedian in the face of major pushback.
Why is Netflix still the top dog?
So, why does Netflix rank so low while still being the biggest game in town?
Maybe just as important as any of the above criticisms is the fact that Netflix is a legacy streamer. It’s arguably the legacy streamer. That carries a lot of weight.
The word “legacy” may seem a bit much to describe Netflix’s history. The company first started streaming in 2007, after all. That’s not even 20 years. But Netflix’s head start does give it a huge edge in the streaming wars. Hulu also launched in 2007, but it didn’t have Netflix’s existing brand behind it, and it was often tied to traditional broadcast schedules. Netflix was a new alternative to cable TV.
Netflix has the advantage of being first to the table.
The service became synonymous with streaming itself. “I’ll probably watch something on Netflix,” you might say when asked about your evening plans, even if you end up watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu or Irma Vep on HBO Max. It’s almost like when we refer to whatever tissue paper we have as Kleenex. That’s because most of the big, competitive streamers didn’t launch until 2020 or 2021, almost 15 years after Netflix.
Netflix also has the advantage of being one of few truly global streamers. As it expanded, Hulu stuck close to home, offered only in the U.S. HBO Max and Peacock haven’t made any moves to go global yet. Paramount Plus has a tiny library where I am in Canada. Apple TV Plus is international, but it’s still a small streamer.
Netflix remains number one largely because it’s big and familiar. Nobody wants the FOMO (fear of missing out) that comes with ignoring a new Netflix original series, even ones that aren’t mega-hits, like the soft hit The Lincoln Lawyer. Or missing the latest season of an established favorite. Netflix has a lot of goodwill accumulated with its head start.
It’s going to need to step up and address people’s concerns, though. As HBO Max becomes a major contender, and other services find their niches, Netflix can’t lean on its brand recognition forever.