Content wars: Netflix and Amazon's ‘unending bales of money’

CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, and CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos
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Andy Cohen, executive producer of Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise, says he's glad he left his role in programming when he did.

"It's the Wild West right now," he told CNBC. "We're not only competing with the 500 other cable channels, but Netflix and Amazon, who seem to have unending bales of money."

He called the streaming giants' spending "terrifying."

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Hollywood is rightfully afraid. Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, told the media in January that in 2016, the company expects to spend "about $5 billion on content on a [profit and loss] basis, which means about $6 billion in cash."

For comparison, HBO has been dropping $10 million per episode for the sixth season of "Game of Thrones."

Of course, Netflix will split its money between original programming and content acquisition. But with that kind of cash, the company could pay for 600 episodes, or 60 seasons (if only!), of "Game of Thrones."

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But the money isn't the only thing that scares Tinseltown.

As of Netflix's most recent quarterly earnings report, the company boasts 81 million subscribers. An analyst recently estimated that there are 58 million to 69 million Amazon Prime subscribers, 60 percent of whom are considered monthly users of the company's Instant Video services.

In contrast, entertainment news site Deadline reported that the February midseason premiere of AMC's "The Walking Dead," the only show to regularly beat the NFL in ratings, pulled in 13.74 million viewers, larger than the population of Tokyo.

Seventeen percent of Netflix subscribers would have to watch the premiere of one of its originals to match that stat. Last year, Variety learned from Luth Research that more than 2 percent of subscribers watched the first season of Marvel superhero drama "Daredevil" within 24 hours of its release.

Considering Netflix subscribers have the freedom of watching such originals as "House of Cards," "Orange Is the New Black" and "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" whenever they want, the old Hollywood has a fight on its hands.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns Bravo.

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Correction: This story was revised to correct that 17 percent of Netflix subscribers would have to watch the premiere of one of its originals to match the number of viewers of the midseason premiere of "The Walking Dead."