Today’s Netflix looks very different than the company that was founded in 1997 — or, for that matter, the one that existed just a few years ago. Netflix went from being a movie rental service to the industry’s first true movie streaming service, and it created a market space that has attracted a lot of competition.
That competition — in the form of services like Hulu and HBO — has changed Netflix’s strategy. Netflix’s onetime monopoly helped it snap up streaming rights for less, but streaming prices are going up. That’s one likely reason behind Netflix’s shrinking content library.
But library size doesn’t matter the way it once did in the streaming space — now, the contest is all about original series. Netflix is pouring record amounts of cash into their original content as are its competitors. And at the same time that their overall library is shrinking, Netflix’s original content selection is growing fast. How’s it paying off?
If you ask Netflix’s users, it’s paying off pretty well. In fact, Netflix user ratings show that Netflix’s subscriber base prefers Netflix’s original content to its syndicated content. Netflix originals sport an average rating of 3.85 stars out of five; all other content averages 3.47 stars. That means that user ratings for Netflix originals are 11% higher, on average, than user ratings for syndicated content.
Netflix does best in the documentaries category, where users rate non-original content, on average, at 3.54. Netflix’s documentaries average 4.07 stars, a pretty impressive showing.
Netflix’s TV shows do the worst, but still edge their other TV show content by 5.7%.
It’s possible that the frequent reviewers among Netflix’s user base differ from the user base as a whole, but there’s not a lot of reason to doubt the raw data here. The Netflix originals and non-originals were both reviewed on the same service and using the same rating system, yet originals consistently outperformed the rest of the content.
That’s great news for Netflix: they’ve been more and more focused on original content, and it’s now clear that their customers feel the same way.
This post is an updated version of an article originally published on April 7, 2016.