Netflix has replaced broadcast TV as the center of American culture — just look at the viewership numbers

Key Points
  • Netflix added 15.8 million global subscribers in the quarter.
  • Netflix has more than 183 million global subscribers.
  • Netflix's biggest hits are society's biggest hits, showing that Netflix dominates American culture.
Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix attends the inauguration of Netflix new offices in Paris, France, January 17, 2020.
Gonzalo Fuentes | Reuters

It's Netflix's world. We're all just living in it. 

Netflix released its first quarter subscriber figures, and as you might expect in a new global society where so many people are stuck at home, the numbers were massive. Netflix now has more than 183 million global customers after adding more than 15 million in the quarter. 

The subscription video service also released numbers on how many households watched some of its hit series, and the numbers are jaw-dropping: 85 million households watched a least two minutes of Netflix original movie "Spenser Confidential." 65 million households checked out Spanish language series "La Casa de Papel," also known as "Money Heist." 64 million people watched "Tiger King." 

Loup Ventures' Gene Munster on Netflix earnings
Loup Ventures' Gene Munster on Netflix earnings

It's true that Netflix pushes the boundaries of viewership measurement by counting anything over two minutes -- basically anything that's not accidental.

But about three quarters of viewers watch at least 70% of a show if they try two minutes, according to LightShed analyst Rich Greenfield.

It used to be that broadcast television was culture's bedrock. The highest rated TV shows of all time -- "Seinfeld," "American Idol," "M*A*S*H" -- and the highest rated TV mini-series of all time -- "The Thorn Birds," "Roots" -- all aired on broadcast networks.

Broadcast television used to be the bedrock of American culture's. Now, the American zeitgeist is Netflix. 

Netflix is so confident as the established cultural mecca now, that it's publicly cheering for an end to coronavirus quarantines, even though it knows this will hurt its viewership metrics. 

"Like other home entertainment services, we're seeing temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth," Netflix wrote in its quarterly letter to shareholders. "We expect viewing to decline and membership growth to decelerate as home confinement ends, which we hope is soon."

Netflix executives realize there are more important things to life than sitting at home streaming "Tiger King," and a healthier global economy will be beneficial for everyone's sanity and bank accounts.

But there's a reason "Saturday Night Live" chooses to parody "Tiger King" instead of "Young Sheldon," or other broadcast TV shows. The world has coalesced around Netflix. Company dominance comes and goes, but the Albanian army keeps reminding us that it's conquered the entertainment world.