The Number of Titles in the Netflix Library is Down 50% the Past Four Years

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The Netflix library has collapsed 50% in total title count since 2012

There’s no denying that the total number of titles available on Netflix is declining, but after some research, we were surprised by just how much it has decreased over the past few years.

We pulled September 2016 title counts from uNoGS in the US, showing that there are currently 5,302 titles available in the US Netflix library including movies and TV shows. What this means is that, over the past four years, the Netflix library has collapsed 50% in total title count since its peak four years ago.

While the exact number of titles available on Netflix in 2012 is unknown, sources who used to work for the streaming giant have told us it was close to 11,000 movies and TV shows. Over the years, this gradual decline has come from major content owners pulling the plug on giving Netflix distribution rights, as well as Netflix decreasing their total spend on third party content.

Instead of having to renegotiate streaming rights repeatedly for third party content, Netflix has opted to place a heavier focus on original movies and shows, a move that, while certainly appearing successful thus far, is still considered by many to be a massive gamble. Netflix has had tons of success with shows like ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Orange is the New Black,’ ‘Narcos’ and more, but the fact remains that creating original content is extremely expensive and doesn’t scale the same way content acquisition can. They also don’t and likely won’t ever stream live sports.

Last year, we reported that Netflix originals were out-performing their television network counterparts when it came to producing quality shows, losing only to HBO. So perhaps this decline in third party content isn’t quite as bad as the numbers make it sound. There’s probably an argument that while quantity has gone down, the quality has remained strong or perhaps even gotten better.

But we remember the outcry when ‘King of the Hill’ was removed from Netflix a few years ago, there were petitions and social media protests. People were demanding that Netflix do something to bring the show back to their service. This happens anytime a popular show gets removed, as we recently noticed with ‘Doctor Who’ disappearing. There’s just plenty of good content that we’d like to stream on Netflix, and it’s still out there for the taking. Just ask Hulu, who now owns the rights to stream ‘Seinfeld’ for the next five years.

Netflix has struggled with international expansion, where streaming rights are ridiculously complicated. We reported that there is a wide variance in total title count country to country, and Netflix is hoping to eliminate that confusion. If they own all the content on their library, they no longer have to deal with international streaming rights. However, with a limited selection (some countries being below 1000 total titles), acquiring customers in new regions has proven difficult.

Of all the entertainment companies out there, nobody prides themselves on the use of data quite like Netflix. They use every bit of information we pass to them as consumers of content to make purchasing decisions when it comes to new shows and movies. So while of course losing nearly half their library over the past few years sounds terrible, Netflix subscriber numbers haven’t quite collapsed in such a way to reflect an extremely pissed off customer base.

We might just be happier with the quality of the content that Netflix provides.

But of course, as competition crops up, including services that offer NFL live streams, the ability to watch NBA games online, and making it easier than ever to stream NHL games online, the desires of consumers might be shifting. More options for different streaming services is going to make it so we have plenty of choices when it comes to cutting the cord. Netflix isn’t the only game in town anymore.

What do you think? Is Netflix better off with their current original content or would you prefer they reverted to their original focus on third party content?

  • Scott Harris

    Still more than enough TV shows to last me for a long, long time

    • Lex Walker

      Well sure, but the question increasingly becomes one of how many of those shows do you actually want to watch? And how many of them are you just watching because the thing you actually want to watch isn’t available there?

  • Stephen Andersen

    Just now I went ahead and cancelled my membership, effective the end of my current prepaid billing period.

    It seems like every time I use Netflix’s search feature, the item I’m looking for is not there. FAR less than when I was a subscriber several years back. Netflix has tried SO hard to get me to watch “The Get Down”.

    For a while I’ve been disappointed with how little Netflix really has, and I thank you for sharing the hard numbers to back up your case. Helped me come to a decision.

  • nerdrrage

    “Is Netflix better off with their current original content or would you prefer they reverted to their original focus on third party content?”

    Are you kidding? Netflix is much better off with original content because otherwise they would be at the mercy of content producers who by now have realized Netflix is going to destroy their distribution business like they destroyed Blockbuster and force them to become mere content producers while Netflix takes over the direct relationship with the audience and their lovely credit card numbers.

    Doesn’t take an MBA to see, whoever has those credit card numbers has ALL the leverage in licensing negotiations. Don’t wanna play ball with Netflix? Gee I hope you didn’t expect anyone to ever watch your little movie/TV show.

    So now that the cat is out of the bag, content creators are scrambling to launch heir own services…probably too little too late…but while they’re attempting to avoid their fate, they will refuse to license content to Netflix, which wants to survive this transition. That was the reason they started making original content in the first place. They knew this would happen.

  • Lukas

    Well now they got people in and also raised the price , with this from the ceo : people will not go they just don’t care

  • Rupert

    Seems clever business to me. Pay the studios for less so they get more desperate and licence their best content to netflix at a better rate.

  • Shaddai

    As a Millennial I think this is not a smart move, most of us we don’t have a television anymore and if we do, it’s for video games. We watch movies and series in services of streaming (Netflix primary, then YouTube), if they continue removing titles in our favorite streaming services then we are going to watch them in illegal streaming services or download them. Also I don’t going to buy fiscally movies and series or virtually (iTunes).

  • I prefer a good movie over an incomplete never-ending series. I figured that my library of movies was probably obsolete (expensive and redundant with Netflix, Amazon prime video, etc) but now you’ve confirmed what I’ve already noticed. The days of me scouring Netflix for the obscure sci-fi flix I’ve never seen is long gone it seems. I guess I won’t retire my four-tuner-recording home theater PC and Comcast account for awhile longer.

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  • William Berry

    Netflix WAS the DVD service to go to for movies and other
    DVD content that was not available at the local video rental store. That has
    changed for this 20 year subscriber. Titles are on long waits if they are even
    available. My queue has dumped many titles I was looking forward to receiving
    in the near future into a SAVED STATUS. Series are incomplete making it useless
    to view what they do have on hand. I have one title that has been at the top of
    my queue for 15 months on a VERY LONG WAIT! I now go to the local video rental
    location to rent new titles since they have them available and Netflix either
    does not or again, they go on a long wait.

    Netflix put Blockbuster Video out of business because BV
    stores could not handle the rental requests for new titles. Why wait one, two
    or more months to see the movie that you could get in three days from Netflix?
    Netflix had titles that were not available at the local video store. They had a
    large selection of genre specific titles not just the titles from the past
    three to six months. One could even re-watch a title that had been rented
    several years before; Netflix had it on hand for their subscribers. Now Netflix
    is looking more and more like the local video stores they put out of business.

    Netflix does not realize how much revenue they are losing by
    ignoring their original core base. Not every customer has access to the
    broadband speeds required to view videos without interruptions (nor the equipment).
    I am sure that they saw the opportunity to increase profits through video
    streaming. But I know they ignored the losses they have incurred on the DVD
    side. I know at some point, Netflix will disband the DVD rental side of their
    business, which is a loss to all of the existing Netflix customers as well as
    the corporation.

    The cost of the cord has become so great that it is becoming
    a burden. Maybe it is time to cut the cord, buy the titles outright with the
    money saved and have them available to view whenever I want without Netflix or
    the studios telling me when I can. A person can buy a lot of DVDs for $200.00
    plus a month.

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