New content king? Consumers name Netflix over HBO for best original programming

Netflix’s heavy focus on original content is paying off: The streamer managed to top HBO in a new Morgan Stanley survey in which 2,501 U.S. adult consumers weighed in on which premium TV and Internet-video subscription service had the best original programming, reports Variety. This year’s results mark Netflix’s first win in the survey’s six-year history.

While HBO has remained an awards show favorite, the study indicates that Netflix is now leading in the court of consumer opinion. Although HBO was a long-standing leader, Netflix took over this year with 29 percent of respondents saying the service was the original programming front-runner. The percentage marks a jump from last year’s 23 percent. For HBO, on the other hand, there was a drastic drop: Only 18 percent ranked HBO best this year, while 31 percent did in last year’s survey. Ouch.

Related: Couch bound? Here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Netflix

The news may come as a blow to HBO, but the company’s content still fares relatively well compared to its non-Netflix competitors. Showtime, Hulu, Amazon, and Starz fell well behind. The former three fell in the 4-5 percent range, based on consumer responses, and Starz scored just 2 percent.

Interestingly, the portion of survey participants who indicated that they didn’t know which service’s original programming was the largest of all. Some 34 percent selected this option, which marks an increase of 7.4 percent compared to last year. Morgan Stanley’s analysts suggested that there’s a “lack of clarity and perhaps growing confusion over content branding” as OTT usage has increased. It also seems possible that some consumers just can’t choose. Many respondents used multiple services (nearly half of Netflix subscribers surveyed also have HBO, for example), so we can’t blame them if their loyalties were divided.

“This comes as we estimate that in 2016 Netflix will spend more on (original programming) than HBO for the first time,” wrote Morgan Stanley analysts, led by Benjamin Swinburne, in the report. The Internet TV network previously announced plans to double its slate of original shows in 2016, apparently inspiring HBO to ramp up its production of originals as well. Morgan Stanley projects that Netflix could spend $2.5 million on content in the U.S. in 2016, while Time Warner spends $1.8 billion on HBO programming.

These companies are smart to be putting their dollars in original content. The study finds that originals play a key role in membership. In fact, 45 percent of Netflix members rate such programming as “a major factor of their continued membership,” according to the report.

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