It’s not your imagination — Netflix’s catalog is getting smaller. As competition in the OTT streaming space has increased, Netflix’s once-massive selection has decreased. In fact, it has shrunk by a third in less than two and a half years.
The statistics are simple and remarkable: in January of 2014, Netflix offered its US-based users a selection of 6,494 movies and 1,609 TV shows, for a total of 8,103 titles. As of March 23, 2016, they offer just 4,335 movies and 1,197 TV shows — 5,532 titles in total. That’s 2,571 fewer titles. In other words, Netflix’s catalog has shrunk 31.7% in less than two and a half years!
Here are the same findings in graphic form. They look just as bad as they sound:
Breaking down the content by type doesn’t change the equation much. The loss of 2,159 movies amounts to a 33.2% drop, while the 412 fewer television shows now available represent a 25.6% loss. That’s a slightly larger drop in the movie selection than in the television selection, but considering the size of the numbers we’re looking at, it seems fair to say that they’re declining at pretty similar rates.
So what’s going on with Netflix’s catalog? The data proves that selection is shrinking, but it doesn’t say anything about why. A good guess is the growing competition in the streaming space: with services like Hulu and Amazon Prime all bidding on streaming rights, the price is bound to rise. That helps explain why Netflix’s record investments in content have yielded smaller and smaller catalogs with each passing year. Looking at the competition would also help explain why Netflix is investing heavily in original series (which would also, of course, be exclusives) — and why competitors like Amazon are doing the same thing. Of course, Netflix fans may argue that the high spending has yielded quality rather than quantity of shows and movies.
Whatever the reason, the daily reality for Netflix users is that they have fewer titles to choose from than they did in years past. Whether or not quality has declined proportionately is a matter of opinion, but the quantitative decline is a matter of fact.