Netflix Now Most-Watched 'Cable Network': Analyst

If Netflix was a cable channel it would be the most watched in terms of daily usage, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield declared Thursday after crunching some numbers based on a Facebook post by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

"We believe Netflix streaming per sub/day is now over 87 [minutes] and, in turn, Netflix is now likely the most watched cable network, essentially in-line with the Disney Channel," Greenfield wrote in a blog post  (registration required)  on Thursday. 

He is basing much of his analysis on the Facebook post, which noted that Netflix had exceeded 4 billion streaming hours globally for the first quarter of 2013. Greenfield extrapolates that the number is somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.150 billion hours.

While Hastings' comment was a global count, Greenfield's analysis assumes that just over 88 percent of that streaming occurred within the U.S., implying just over 1.2 billion hours or 73 billion minutes per month.  Taking it a step further, he believes Netflix ended the period with 28.1 million U.S. subs, thus helping him reach the figure of 87 minutes per sub per day, or 43 hours per sub per month, of Netflix streaming.

Last summer, Greenfield surmised that Netflix subscribers were streaming 79 minutes per day in, making it the seventh-most watched network for June 2012.

While Netflix usage is on the rise, Greenfield downplayed how much of an effect new original series are having on those numbers.

"However, it is worth pointing out that in Reed Hasting’s June 2012 Facebook post, he indicated that when House of Cards and Arrested Development launched, streaming hours would blow away the current run-rate," he said.  While Arrested Development does not hit until May, streaming hours are climbing per person/per day, but we would be hard pressed to call it blowing away prior stats at this point."

Netflix has not revealed any tangible usage data on Cards since the Feb. 1 debut, when Netflix released all 13 episodes from the first season at once. 

At the B&C/Multichannel News Next TV Summit last month, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said other intangible metrics have helped to determine that the show is indeed a hit for Netflix. 

“Seven weeks in, and we're still talking about it," Sarandos said. "It's in the culture."