The day after HBO aired the long-awaited series finale of Game of Thrones, Morgan Stanley released the results of research that may give the premium cable network pause. Now that the fantasy series — with its globe-spanning, extremely loyal audience — has taken its final bow, industry watchers have begun speculating about what the future has in store for HBO in a post-Thrones world. Can its existing and forthcoming series like Watchmen, Westworld, Big Little Lies, and so many others hold up in an increasingly fragmented streaming world, especially with deep-pocketed players like Apple and Disney about to enter the fray?
At least according to the just-released Morgan Stanley survey, it seems that HBO is already losing to Netflix in an all-important category.
Consumers were asked for their preferences when it comes to original programming, and in this case, Netflix handily beat out HBO. About 40% of consumers said Netflix has the best original shows and movies, compared to just 11% for HBO. Worth noting: Netflix’s score was up from the 39% who said the same thing last year, while HBO’s score was down from 14% last year.
Even more concerning for HBO’s future is that its 11% result this time around was actually beaten by an additional choice, besides Netflix. While 40% of consumers said they thought Netflix has the best original programming, 32% just admitted that they “don’t know” which service has the best. With HBO’s 11% following after that.
Of course, these results should only be read as a snapshot and not as a comprehensive assessment of consumer sentiment about the network. Morgan Stanley said its AlphaWise online survey polled 3,041 U.S. adults who were at least 18 years old in March of this year. Also coloring the survey results is the fact that Morgan Stanley wanted an indication of consumer sentiment, even if the consumers responding to the survey didn’t subscribe to a particular network or streaming service.
You only had to watch the Game of Thrones finale last night to see the highlight reel of upcoming HBO programming to get a sense of some of the content it’s hoping can keep subscribers happy now that Thrones is officially in the history books. There have been dire predictions that HBO may be in for a wave of cancellations now that one of the biggest TV shows in years has finished its epic eight-year run. Indeed, global market intelligence agency Mintel reported recently that of all over-the-top streaming users, HBO Now subscribers “are nearly twice as likely as all streamers to agree they would cancel a service if a specific show/program was canceled or ended.”
The fictional Game of Thrones may finally be over, but a new chapter in a very real and high-stakes contest for streaming supremacy is already underway.