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The most popular shows on Netflix aren’t Netflix originals

Published Dec 25th, 2018 2:57PM EST
Netflix Popular Shows
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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From Stranger Things to House of Cards, Netflix has no shortage of original content. If anything, it’s quite the opposite. Over the last year, it’s become somewhat impossible to keep up with the avalanche of new programs the streaming giant launches each and every month. In December alone, for example, Netflix debuted 64 new TV shows and movies, a staggering amount of content by any measure.

Netflix’s ongoing push into the realm of original content notwithstanding, the most popular shows on Netflix happen to come from other media companies. In a chart put together by Recode, with data sourced from Jumpshot, we learn that the top 5 most-watched shows on Netflix include The Office, Friends, Parks and Recreation, Grey’s Anatomy, and New Girl. The takeaway here is that Netflix, despite its success with original programming, is still heavily reliant upon licensing agreements with third-parties when it comes to the content viewers spend the most time watching.

Indeed, the popularity of Friends on Netflix is why the company opted to sign a last-minute deal (worth $100 million) to keep the popular sitcom for another year. If you recall, when word that Friends would be leaving Netflix at the end of 2018, the backlash from fans was immediate, if not overwhelming.

As for the most viewed programs on Netflix, if you take a look at the chart below, it’s not until you get to the 14th spot that a Netflix original appears.

Image source: Recode

This obviously puts Netflix in a tough position. While it has made no secret of its plan to wean itself off of licensed third-party content, the popularity of shows like The Office and Friends illustrates that many Netflix subscribers are just as interested in watching older content — that they’ve perhaps already seen — than they are in watching new content.

Looking ahead, it stands to reason that many of the popular shows above will eventually leave Netflix, especially as competition between rival streaming services intensifies. Indeed, we’ve already seen this play out over the past few years as a number of popular shows on Netflix — from Family Guy to 30 Rock — were pulled and put on Hulu.

It is worth mentioning that the Jumpshot data above isn’t fully inclusive, with Recode pointing out:

Netflix has said in the past that the overwhelming majority of its views come from people watching on connected TVs, and Jumpshot’s data doesn’t measure that behavior.

Nonetheless, when we look at how much Netflix paid Warner Bros. to keep Friends on for just one year, it stands to reason that the data is still quite instructive.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.