Netflix now has more paid subscribers than HBO, says report

While Netflix has long refused to release viewership data, according to a new report in Bloomberg, Netflix has passed HBO in paid subscribers. God only knows how many more they’d have if they counted everyone whose ex-girlfriends still used their logins NOT THAT I’M NAMING ANY NAMES, LINDA.

Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, reports third-quarter results today after markets close. Already the world’s largest subscription-video service, the company probably reached 30 million paying U.S. customers as of Sept. 30, according to Needham & Co. HBO, Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s premium cable-TV network, has about 28.7 million, according to researcher SNL Kagan.

It helps that Netflix costs $8 a month, whereas (for me, at least) HBO costs $15. Meanwhile, Netflix is negotiating with cable companies to try to be made available as a set-top box.

To reach [CEO Reed] Hastings’ goal of becoming a Web-based TV network, Netflix is following HBO’s path. Thirty years ago, HBO aired its first original movie, a 1983 biopic of Canadian amputee and runner Terry Fox. Like HBO, Netflix has used original programming to build customer loyalty and to stand out from competitors such as Inc., the largest Web retailer, Hulu LLC and Redbox Instant by Verizon.

Hastings has called “House of Cards,” which won the Emmy for director David Fincher, “Orange Is the New Black” and other originals integral to his strategy of moving from reruns to a mix of Hollywood movies and new shows. Sony Pictures Television will produce a psychological thriller for Netflix, the company said on Oct. 1.

If Netflix wants to be more like HBO, I can’t complain, like white people everywhere I do love HBO. But if they’re hoping to duplicate the success of a network known for Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Girls, True Blood, Rome, etc, I think the strategy is obvious: more nudity. I watched House of Cards, and it only averaged one boob for every three episodes. Not enough. With film seemingly watering down their product to please an ever broader market, it’s nice that through subscription services, viewers are delivering an emphatic message of “We want titties and incest, and the occasional wiener.”