Netflix (NFLX 0.77%) pioneered the concept of streaming video as we know it today, being among the first to deliver movies and television series via the internet. The company has long maintained its leadership in the space, with Amazon's (AMZN 0.84%) Prime Video and Hulu, controlled by Disney (DIS 0.25%), rounding out the top three.
Competition has been heating up in recent years. Deep-pocketed rivals -- including Disney, AT&T, and Comcast -- dived deeper into streaming, debuting Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock, all in an effort to stake their claim and potentially dethrone the champ.
The most common narrative was that Netflix's growth would be stunted, with these well-heeled rivals feasting on the spoils. However, a review of the most popular subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) programming suggests that Netflix continues to thrive.
Dominating the top 10
Recent data shows that Netflix continues to dominate the competition. The company accounts for seven of the top 10 SVOD series, according to market research company Nielsen Holdings. For the week ending Dec. 5, 2021 (the most recent data available), Netflix's original Lost in Space took the top spot, with 1.2 billion minutes streamed, nearly twice as many as the second-place program True Story, also a Netflix original.
Selling Sunset and The Great British Baking Show captured the fifth and sixth spots, respectively, while The Queen of Flow, School of Chocolate, and Money Heist -- all Netflix originals, rounded out the top 10, in that order.
Other notable entrants came courtesy of Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. Hawkeye, the latest installment in Disney's Marvel canon, took third place, while Amazon's Wheel of Time, based on the Robert Jordan novels of the same name, came in fourth. Disney also took the seventh spot with its documentary The Beatles: Get Back.
Netflix also dominated the "acquired programs" category, with nine of the top 10 programs. Cocomelon, Seinfeld, NCIS, Criminal Minds, and Grey's Anatomy -- all shown on Netflix -- made up the top five, in that order. Disney+ was the only other entrant in the top 10, with animated children's show Bluey, which took the ninth spot.
There was tougher competition in the movies category, but Netflix still controlled the majority of viewership, with six of the top 10 features. The Power of the Dog took the top spot, followed by A Castle for Christmas, Red Notice, and A Boy Called Christmas. Disney+ rounded out the top five with Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.
All told, and across all categories, Netflix programs took eight of the top 10 spots.
It's harder than it looks
Among its chief rivals, Disney+ has often been cited as the heir apparent to Netflix, due to Disney's loyal fan base and its treasure trove of intellectual property. Disney+ exploded onto the scene in late 2019, quickly adding tens of millions of subscribers and topping the century mark less than two years later, with 118 million subscribers to close out its fiscal year ended Oct. 2, 2021.
Unfortunately for Disney, it has learned -- as many Netflix rivals have -- that generating a steady stream of compelling content is harder than it looks. In fact, growth for Disney+ recently slowed to a crawl, adding just 2.1 million subscribers in its fiscal fourth quarter, the slowest pace of growth since the service debuted.
At an investor conference late last year, Disney CEO Bob Chapek admitted that growth would be choppy. "The quarter-to-quarter business is not linear," he said. "What we are finding out, as you've seen from our last several quarters in terms of our earnings, is that these numbers tend to be a lot noisier than a straight line."
Long live the king
Netflix debuted its streaming video service in 2007, so it's had more than a decade to fine-tune its content strategy. Competition was always going to be a factor, but Netflix bears appear to have sorely underestimated the strength of the company's content library and the stickiness of its offerings.
To put this in context, consider this: In its third quarter (ended Sept. 30, 2021), Netflix added 4.38 million new paying subscribers, up 9.4% year over year -- and more than double the 2.1 million acquired by Disney+ during the same period. This came despite the fact that Disney is the shiny new thing and Netflix is the old dog of streaming video.
Netflix's leadership across viewing categories and its continued impressive growth -- in spite of the increased competition -- should have shareholders jumping for joy.