Netflix Pulls Advertising Ace Card: Targeting Top 10 Content

NEWS ANALYSIS — Announced at Netflix’s first-ever marketing Upfronts in New York this week were plans to allow marketers to target the streamer’s daily, weekly top 10 content.

“Brands can become part of the cultural zeitgeist by aligning themselves with Netflix’s biggest hits,” Nikki Merkouris, corporate communications executive in the streamer’s New York office wrote in a post.

That’s no small thing guaranteeing ad placement within Netflix’s most popular shows and movies. While media companies regularly tout their content prowess, few can back it up with third-party verification like Netflix.

According to Peter Naylor, VP of sales at Netflix, the streamer has had the top-streamed TV series for 15 of 16 weeks this year, and the top streamed movie 14 of 16 weeks in 2023, according to Nielsen. That’s just this year. The trend has been pretty consistent since Nielsen began reporting weekly streaming viewership on household televisions in 2020.

Netflix, which launched a lower-priced ($6.99) “basic with ads” subscription tier last November, has quietly amassed nearly 5 million average monthly viewers — a tally that reportedly translates to upwards of 3 million new paid subscribers.

To Rich Greenfield, media analyst with LightShed Partners, the proposition is a win-win since it reduces the likelihood of marketers buying ads months in advance on programming that turns out to be a ratings flop.

“You are always buying [ads for] what people are watching and can never make a mistake that requires make-goods, especially when you consider almost all of the top streamed programming is on Netflix,” Greenfield wrote on May 18 post.

The announcement by Netflix suggests the streamer will up “basic with ads” access to original content, in addition to increasing the tier’s format resolution to 1080 pixels from 720.

“The ad-tier should continue to reduce churn and draw new subscribers to the service, while the password sharing crackdown may drive [average revenue per user] higher initially with some churn, but ultimately expand Netflix’s subscriber base,” Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, wrote in a May 19 note.

Pachter believes “basic with ads” viewers watched on average 30 hours per month and saw four ads per hour, with Netflix earning its peak CPM of $65, or the amount a marketer will pay for every one thousand impressions of a digital ad. That works out to nearly $15 ad ARPU ($6.99 subscription fee + $7.80 from advertisers) on 3.5 million ad-tier subscribers at the end of Q1, according to Pachter.

“Netflix’s ad-tier viewer engagement is as high as its regular [non-ad] tiers, underscoring that viewership on its ads plan was just an early growing pain and will not be an ongoing problem,” Pachter wrote.

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NBA TV Ratings Down 15% as League Pushes Streaming Access

With several marquee players absent due to injury, the National Basketball Association’s 2019-20 season is off to an inglorious start.

NBA games on national TV drew an average of 885,000 viewers in the first eight weeks of the season, according to The Wall Street Journal, in contrast to 1 million during the previous-year period and 1.2 million two years ago.

The league cites a rash of injuries to big name players such as Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Zion Williamson for the downturn. Indeed, without Curry and Thompson, the former champion Golden State Warriors are dead last in the Western Conference with just nine wins.

Media analysts such as Rich Greenfield with Lightshed Partners contend viewers are diminishing for other reasons such declining pay-TV and increasing content alternatives.

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“There is no doubt that the talent in any season can push ratings up or down, but everyone is fighting a very, very difficult underlying trend, which is less people subscribing to TV,” Greenfield told WSJ. “And of the people who are subscribing to TV, they’re watching less and less every day.”

The NBA for the first time is selling its NBA TV streaming service without a requisite pay-TV contract. NBA TV, which affords subscribers live access to out-of-market games, costs $6.99 monthly or $59.99 annually.

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Launched in 1999 as a 24-hour cable channel, NBA League Pass began offering streaming video access to select games in 2006. It became available on Dish Network’s Sling TV online platform in 2018.

Disney+ Day After: Stock Up, Netflix Down

The morning after Disney’s unveiling of branded subscription streaming video platform, Disney + launching on Nov. 12, Wall Street applauded the move, upping Disney shares nearly 10% to $128 per share in mid-morning trading.

Netflix, which is Disney’s targeted competitor despite myriad denials, is down slightly (2.79%) at $357.37 per share.

Goldman Sachs welcomed the service’s wide content selection, pricing (23% lower than Netflix), global rollout and aggressive subscriber projections.

Credit Suisse cautioned about Disney’s projected losses (approaching $1 billion) in the upstart direct-to-consumer & international business segment, which includes ESPN+ and Hulu. Disney expects Disney+ to be profitable in five years.

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SunTrust, citing an internal survey, found that just 8% of Netflix subs said they expected to switch to Disney+, with 59% sticking with Netflix. Another 24% said they would subscribe to both.

“Bottom-line, Disney+ features family content, while Netflix offers a much broader range of content with the majority of the most-searched content on the platform,” SunTrust analysts wrote in an April 12 note as reported by CNBC. “As such, we do not view Disney+ as a strong alternative to Netflix.”

Rich Greenfield, media analyst at BTIG Research in New York and former Netflix earnings webcast moderator, wondered if original Disney+ series will be available to binge view or just on a weekly basis similar to HBO and Showtime.

“No clarity on release schedule for show yet,” Greenfield tweeted. “Sounds like no binging.”

Notably, while the last original new-release Disney movies coming to Netflix this year include Solo: A Star Wars Story, Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Christopher Robin, May Poppins Returns, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, among others, little attention has been made that catalog Disney movies will reportedly still be heading to Netflix on a per-title basis.

The “pay 2” window essentially follows the free cable window when movies are released on networks such as USA Network and FX, among others.

“Wonder if Disney will explain how Disney+ will lose access to certain Pixar, Marvel, Disney and Star Wars films as they enter the “pay 2” window and revert to Netflix,” Greenfield tweeted.

Separately, Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, suggested Netflix sub growth could be negatively affected in Q2 following the service’s recent price hikes.

“Although domestic Q1 [ended March 31] subscriber additions will likely be in line with guidance, the price increases in April – June may limit growth (and guidance) to below 1 million net additions, which may weigh on the stock,” Pachter wrote in an April 11 note.

Netflix releases Q1 fiscal results on April 16.