Taking several concrete stats, the folks over at the streaming data website CordCutting.com engaged in some number crunching. Its discovery is that (spoiler alert), if the average user spent as much time watching regular cable as he does Netflix, then he would consume around 160 hours of television commercials every year. That’s more than six and a half days. (And data suggests that in the past, Americans watched, on average, more traditional television than they watch Netflix today.)
Here’s how that math works.
- In its 2016 Q1 letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it had crossed the 75 million subscriber mark (which, sidenote, means the company expanded by 17 million last year).
- During his keynote address at the 2016 CES tradeshow, Netflix CEO Ross Miller said those 75 million users stream 125 million hours of content on the platform each day, The Verge reported.
- So, via simple division, the website concluded each subscriber averages 1.66 hours of watching Netflix each day. (125,000,000 ÷ 75,000,000 = 1.667)
- Next, a Nielsen report from 2014 showed that, in 2013, each hour of cable television included 15 minutes and 38 seconds of commercials. (At 14 minutes and 15 seconds, network television included less, and the numbers for both cable and network fluctuate over the years. From 2009 to 2013, it averaged out to roughly 15 minutes per hour on cable and 14 minutes on network).
- That fifteen minutes and 38 seconds of commercials each hour equals 938 seconds. ((15 x 60) + 38 = 938)
- Multiply the number of commercials per hour by the number of hours the average viewer watches Netflix each day (938 x 1.66) and you find that most skip 1,557 seconds — or around 25 minutes — of commercials each day. Spread that out over a year and voila! 157.87 hours, or just over 6.5 days.
Networks are increasingly aware of the allure of not having so many commercials. As CordCutting.com points out, this doesn’t only mean that people are simply skipping more than six days of commercials; they’re getting to watch more than six days more of the television shows, films and documentaries they want.
“We know one of the benefits of an ecosystem like Netflix is its lack of advertising,” Howard Shimmel, chief research officer at Time Warner’s Turner Broadcasting, told Bloomberg. “Consumers are being trained there are places they can go to avoid ads.”
Last November, Time Warner announced its truTV planned to cut its ad load in half during primetime shows. Viacom did the same on its channels, which include Comedy Central and MTV. And Fox offered the opportunity for Hulu users to choose shorter interactive ads in place of longer, traditional ones. Bloomberg reported.
The big “if” here, of course, is the question of how much television we watched before Netflix. The platform is a form of disruptive tech — it changed not only the infrastructure of the television industry but also how users interact with it (in simpler terms: in some ways, it changed the way we watch television), and it arrived alongside smartphones, tablets and even watches that can stream video.
Luckily, we have some data for that, too. And, as it turns out, Americans watched more traditional television in 2006 than it watches on Netflix now.
A 2004 report released by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan stated that American Children (age 6 to 17) watched more television in 1981-1982 (average of 15 hours and 44 minutes a week) than in 2002-2003 (average of 14 hours and 36 minutes per week). In 2006, the New York Times reported that American teens and adults spend more than 64 days watching the boob tube, which equates to more than 4 hours a day — a large jump from the 1.66 hours used in the arithmetic above.
It’s worth mentioning that Netflix is an increasingly global company, as the Wall Street Journal reported. And, according to the Atlantic, Americans, on average, watch more television than other countries.
With that in mind, Netflix could actually be saving those living in the U.S. more than 6.5 days of commercials each year.