Netflix caused 50 percent of U.S. TV viewing drop in 2015: Analyst

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Netflix is leaving an indelible mark on the TV biz — and while the streaming giant isn't dealing a fatal blow to the industry, it is seriously cutting into traditional television ratings.

In 2015, Netflix accounted for about half of the overall 3% decline in TV viewing time among U.S. audiences, according to a new study by Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson. The analyst calculated that based on an estimate that Netflix's domestic subs streamed 29 billion hours of video last year, representing 6% of total American live-plus-7 TV viewing reported by Nielsen (up from 4.4% in 2014).

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Netflix caused 50 percent of U.S. TV viewing drop in 2015: Analyst
An exterior view of Netflix headquarters is shown in Los Gatos, Calif., Friday, July 21, 2006. Netflix earnings report will be released after the bell. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Netflix Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings holds up two of their most popular DVD rentals "The Perfect Storm" and "Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles" at their distribution plant in San Jose, Calif., Monday, Sept. 10, 2001. Online DVD rental company Netflix is emerging as one of the Internet's rising stars that has attracted a cast of 300,000 subscribers who pay a $19.95 monthly fee to get up to three DVD rentals mailed to them. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
400303 03: Ready-to-be-shipped DVDs roll down an assembly line January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site Netflix.com has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
400303 01: Netflix.com Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings holds a ready-to-be-shipped DVD January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
400303 05: Packages of DVDs await shipment at the Netflix.com headquarters January 29, 2002 in San Jose, CA. The online DVD rental site has 500,000 subscribers who can rent, receive and return unlimited discs per month by mail. (Photo By Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
**FILE** Netflix customer Carleen Ho holds up DVD movies, "Talladega Nights" and "Pirates of the Caribbean' that she rented from Netflix, at her home in Palo Alto, Calif., in this Jan. 24, 2007 file photo. Netflix is expected to release quarterly earnings on Monday, July 23, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
Close up of the Netflix's new set top box at Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., Friday, May 16, 2008. Netflix Inc. on Tuesday will introduce its first solution for subscribers who want entertainment delivered directly to their television sets with just a few clicks on a remote control. The breakthrough comes in the form of 5-inch-by-5-inch device tailored for a year-old service that uses high-speed Interneet connections to stream more than 10,000 movies and TV shows from Netflix's library. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings shows off their new set top box at Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, Calif., Friday, May 16, 2008. Netflix Inc. on Tuesday will introduce its first solution for subscribers who want entertainment delivered directly to their television sets with just a few clicks on a remote control. The breakthrough comes in the form of 5-inch-by-5-inch device tailored for a year-old service that uses high-speed Interneet connections to stream more than 10,000 movies and TV shows from Netflix's library. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Actress Teri Hatcher, second from left, and actor James Denton, right, perform together with the celebrity cover band "Band From TV" at the "Netflix Live! on Location" concert and screening series at Griffith Park in Los Angeles on Saturday, Aug. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Dan Steinberg)
FILE - In this July 20, 2010 file photo, a Netflix subscriber turns on Netflix in Palo Alto, Calif. Netflix's streaming-video audience of more than 20 million subscribers has led many to label it a kind of digital TV network, and one that may grow into an HBO rival _ if it's not already. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
Actor Steven Van Zandt and wife Maureen Van Zandt attend the premiere of a Netflix original series "Lilyhammer" at the Crosby Street Hotel on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini)
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos and wife Nicole Avant attend the TIME 100 Gala celebrating the "100 Most Influential People in the World" at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Tuesday April 23, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Taylor Schilling, left, Cindy Holland and Piper Kerman attend the premiere of the Netflix original series "Orange is the New Black" on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
A general view of atmosphere seen at the Netflix Emmy Party, on Sunday, Sep, 22, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer, Robin Wright, Kevin Spacey and Cindy Holland, Netflix VP of original content seen at Netflix 'House of Cards' Los Angeles Season 2 Special Screening, on Thursday, Feb, 13, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Ricky Gervais and Conan O'Brien seen at Netflix 'Derek' Season 2 Academy screening at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre on Tuesday, May 28, 2014, in North Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
The cast at a Special Fan Screening of Netflix's "Hemlock Grove" held at The Arclight Theater on Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Laverne Cox at Netflix's FYC "Orange is the New Black" Emmy Panel on Monday, August 4, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix seen at the Netflix Celebration of 2014 TIFF on Sunday, Sep. 7, 2014, in Toronto. (Photo by Arthur Mola/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Actress Jacinda Barrett attends the Netflix original series premiere of "Bloodline" at the SVA Theatre on Tuesday, March 3, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR LG ELECTRONICS - Matt Lloyd, director of photography for Marvel’s “Daredevil," explains how OLED technology helps deliver his creative vision to audiences at LG and Netflix’s Dare to See OLED event, Wednesday, April 8, 2015 in New York. (Photo by Jason DeCrow/Invision for LG Electronics/AP Images)
Kevin Spacey seen at Netflix 'House of Cards' Academy Screening at AMPAS on Monday, April 27, 2015, in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Tina Desai seen at the world premiere of the Netflix original series "Sense8" on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in San Francisco, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
Jane Krakowski, from left, Tina Fey, Ellie Kemper and Robert Carlock arrive at Netflix's "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" Q&A Screening at Pacific Design Center on Sunday, June 7, 2015, in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP)
attends Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" ORANGECON Celebration at Skylight Clarkson SQ on Thursday, June 11, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
This June 24, 2015 photo shows the Netflix Apple TV app icon, in South Orange, N.J. (AP Photo/Dan Goodman)
Director/Producer, Hot Girls Wanted- Jill Bauer, Director, What Happened, Miss Simone? - Liz Garbus, Director, Virunga - Orlando von Einsiedel, Director, Chef’s Table - David Gelb and Subject and Executive Producer, Tig - Tig Notaro seen at Netflix 2015 Summer TCA at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)
FILE - In this March 13, 2007 file photo, Steven Avery listens to testimony in the courtroom at the Calumet County Courthouse in Chilton, Wis. The Netflix documentary series âMaking a Murdererâ tells the story of a Wisconsin man wrongly convicted of sexual assault only to be accused, along with his nephew, of killing a photographer two years after being released. An online petition has collected hundreds of thousands of digital signatures seeking a pardon for the pair of convicted killers-turned-social media sensations based on a Netflix documentary series that cast doubt on the legal process. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gives a keynote address, January 6, 2016 at the CES 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK / AFP / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Moreover, Nathanson predicts Netflix's total streaming hours as a percentage of TV viewing will continue to rise to about 14% by 2020. "Currently, Netflix is a source of industry pain, but not necessarily a cause of industry death," he wrote in the note.

Executives at media conglomerates are now viewing Netflix as a growing threat. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, who once compared Netflix to the "Albanian army," last fall said that the company may pull back on licensing TV content to SVOD services.

Related: Netflix U.S. Viewing to Surpass ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC by 2016: Analysts

But not all TV networks are suffering from the rise of Netflix and other streaming-video services, Nathanson noted. Total viewing of networks from Time Warner, Scripps Networks Interactive, AMC Networks and Discovery Communications rose in 2015. A+E Networks' viewing hours declined 15%, Viacom fell 13%, and NBCUniversal and Disney each dropped 5% overall.

In comparing TV viewing of Netflix vs. non-Netflix households, broadcast networks took the biggest hit in 2015. CBS viewing among Netflix subs was 42% lower than non-subs, with Fox at -35%, ABC at -32% and NBC at -27%, according to Nathanson's analysis.

Meanwhile, viewing time of Disney's networks last year was 11% higher in Netflix homes versus non-Netflix homes. Viacom saw a "modest" 5% year-over-year drop in Netflix homes; in that case, "it is unclear if this is as a result of viewership which has already been negatively impacted by SVOD services in prior years, or if the company's younger-skewing viewers are switching back and forth more easily to watch both linear television and SVOD services," Nathanson wrote.

Based on viewing time, Netflix in 2015 was bigger than smaller cable programmers like A+E and AMC, but not as large as the seven biggest conglomerates (NBCUniversal, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Discovery and CBS).

Other studies have compared Netflix's viewing to traditional TV. The service was on track to attract a larger 24-hour audience than each of the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) some time in 2016, per an analysis last summer by FBR Capital Markets.

As of the end of 2015, Netflix reported 74.76 million streaming customers worldwide, including 44.74 million in the U.S.

One big challenge for Netflix now will be increasing its reach among older consumers, according to Nathanson, an age group that watches more traditional TV than younger demos. SVOD penetration among those 35-44 is 60%, then tapers off to 54% for the 45-54 cohort, 37% for 55-64 and 23% for those 65-plus.

Nathanson's note Thursday, "Is Netflix Killing TV?," is an update to one the analyst published last April.

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