Netflix doesn't have to sweat losing its big Starz Play movie library because viewers come to the Internet for their television fixes and Netflix has built up a pretty valuable store of TV selections in the last few months. As of last fall, the streaming service's executives estimated that show watching made up 50 to 60 percent of total viewing and analyst Richard Greenfield puts it even higher at 80 percent, reports The New York Times' Brian Stelter. Meanwhile, viewing of new release movies has gone down from 8 to 2 percent in the last year. And it's not just on Netflix. All over the Internet, TV reigns.
On Hulu, for example, the entire first page of top played content is full of television show episodes and not a single movie. As of September 2010, iTunes had sold over 450 million TV episode downloads, compared to 100 million movie downloads. This phenomenon says more about the nature of television watching, than it does about preferences. As long, addictive movies, TV shows have the potential hook users for longer periods of time than movies. A season of Mad Men, just one popular show Netflix offers, has four seasons available for streaming, 13 episodes per season, 48 minutes per episode, so there are hours and hours more to watch than any single movie. Numbers aren't available, but there's a good chance that by sheer volume, Netflix may have more television content in its library than movies, which could skew the stat.
We also think the Internet-television phenomenon has to do with what the Atlantic Wire's Ray Gustini calls small screen syndrome. Laptops look like television sets; not like big movie screens. We're conditioned to watch hours of bitty televisions shows on that type of screen, rather than films. It just feels natural.
Whatever the cause, this all works out for Netflix, as it is about to lose its Starz Play and has since invested in shows. Since news of the failed renewal deal Netflix has signed contracts with the CW, AMC; IFC; Sundance; WE; TLC; Discovery and Animal Planet on top of investing in its own original stuff. With hours more television options, Netflix won't feel empty. Plus, the Starz movie selection wasn't that great, anyway.