Why Netflix hasn’t killed pay TV in Europe

For the past two years, people have been declaring the death of traditional pay TV at the hands of digital streaming companies such as Netflix. But in spite of exclusively showing smash hits such as "House of Cards," that moment has not yet arrived in the U.S. So what about Europe?

Netflix has continued to push aggressively into Europe in 2014 in its bid to beat pay TV giants such as Sky and Liberty Global, but analysts aren't convinced that without a attractive "bundle" of broadband, TV and phone, this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

"I think there was hype in there about Netflix's ability to destroy pay TV," Richard Broughton, head of broadband media at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

A Netflix spokesperson said analysts had got the wrong idea about Netflix, adding that it was not aiming to wipe out traditional pay TV players.

"Available to watch on Netflix are increasingly exclusive titles that you can't watch anywhere else. ... We're complementary to other services, not a replacement," a spokesperson told CNBC by email.

"Just as traditional channels, we compete and differentiate through our content, offering titles people want to watch and offering those only on Netflix."

How it compares

In Western Europe, Netflix has 9.4 million subscribers, according to data compiled by IHS, putting it third in a list behind the Sky group with 19.3 million and Liberty Global with 14.9 million.

Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California.
Getty Images
Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California.

According to IHS, Netflix will only become the number two player by 2017, and while its subscriber numbers surge, the likes of Sky and Liberty Global remain stable, despite CEO Reed Hastings suggesting earlier this year that broadcast TV will be over by 2030.

But why isn't Netflix eating into pay TV's market share?

'Light' program catalog

Netflix's own shows such as "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" have gained a lot of traction, winning seven Emmy awards in August. But amid proprietary shows and some big name films, Netflix lacks an in-depth catalog of offerings, analysts said.

"Netflix has a few high-profile titles that it bases its whole offer and promotions around. The depth in catalog in terms of recent content is relatively light. If you want those top TV shows you need the pay TV operators," Broughton said.

Pay TV fight back

And while Netflix has marched into Europe, pay TV operators have fought back trying to solidify their bundle packages of broadband, TV and phone offerings.

An increasing number of operators such as Sky and Virgin Media in the U.K. are offering packages to hook consumers into their ecosystem, making it difficult for Netflix to break their hold.

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"You have definitely seen pay TV operators change their business models so (they) are not just delivering content," Ian Maude, online media analyst at Enders Analysis, told CNBC by phone.

"They have a broader service and are more embedded in the lives of consumers."

In addition, Maude noted that with the low cost of Netflix, starting at just £5.99 a month in the U.K. for the basic service, consumers who are willing to pay for TV will buy the streaming service as an add-on.

Competition

Stream out of Netflix?
Stream out of Netflix?   

Netflix is not alone in the Internet TV space with services such as Hulu and Amazon's own platform providing a challenge.

And traditional pay TV operators have also been jumping to the on-demand streaming bandwagon. U.S. network HBO unveiled a standalone Web-only streaming service earlier this year, while in the U.K. Sky has its own on-demand platform called Now TV.

Sony also announced a service last month called PlayStation Vue, an online service with channels from major networks such as CBS, Fox and NBCUniversal.

The growth of other players has hampered Netflix's ability to gain a massive foothold in Europe, analysts said.

"People who might have subscribed to Netflix might be tempted by an alternative service," Maude said.

Scale is key

In the face of tough competition, Netflix has one solution—scale.

Their aggressive expansion highlights the on-demand service's understanding that a growth in users will be critical for its future success. Analysts said this would give it the necessary leverage to fight traditional TV companies when it comes to acquiring content and making original programs.

"As they grow their scale, they can compete for rights, push down content costs and bankroll more original productions," Broughton said.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is owned by cable operator Comcast and is the parent company of Universal Studios and CNBC.