Netflix and cable providers, many of whom stream said Netflix over their pipes, are fighting an endless war over subscribers. But while the war may not end anytime soon, it’s pretty clear who’s winning, and it’s not the people who want you to buy channels in bulk.
Data visualizer Samuel Bennett put together a chart that rather starkly demonstrates that Netflix is growing faster than cable. To be fair, this is strictly cable, as satellite TV and phone video providers aren’t included, which puts the total number of pay-tv users at roughly 94 million as of last August. Still, Netflix is just about a million subscribers shy of reaching parity with cable, a number it will easily hit by early 2017 if not before the end of 2016, and already dwarfs Comcast on subscriber numbers.
That’s a bigger deal than you might think. Cord-cutting advocates estimate that roughly a million households a year are ditching cable entirely, and that has broader effects on television. ESPN, for example, the worldwide leader in both sports coverage and retransmission fees, may not have a sustainable business model after 2021, which might, in turn, affect the NFL, which collects billions in fees to let networks air games and is struggling to figure out why ratings have dropped so precipitously.
Of course, at the moment, there is quite a bit of overlap between cable subscribers and Netflix users. But as cable costs go up and the price of a Netflix subscription looks better and better by comparison, cable providers will need to have more compelling reasons for their customers to stay.