The first part of my investigation was to find data that presented the top TV series on television in the United States in 2010. Surprisingly, that data was not that easy to get but Deadline.com had a list of the top shows that could be used.
Because news shows, variety shows, sport shows, and reality TV shows seem to lose their freshness once aired, I decided to remove them from the list as I assumed the demand for such show on VOD would probably be limited over time. All this cleaning up allowed me to format a list of the top TV series which I could then use for research.
Because TV seasons change in the middle of the year, I’ve looked to include seasons that ended in 2010 and seasons that started in 2010. If only one set is available, this is noted in the table. If both seasons are available, I put in Yes.
I picked Netflix and Hulu as the first two services to look at because they have positioned themselves as alternative ways to watch the shows. I also included data from Amazon VOD, and iTunes as both of them are trying to sell either season pass or per show purchasing to their users. I did not include the individual station’s websites sites (eg. ABC.com, NBC.com, CBS.com, Fox.com, etc…) because most of them are only accessible via computers and a high number of them have started blocking devices which were trying to offer access to their content from a TV screen. For the same reason, I focused on Hulu Plus content instead of the web-based one only.
It is important to note that TV episodes on Amazon and iTunes are available in different formats, either on a season-pass basis, per episode rental, or per episode purchase.
I’ve capped the list at 50 titles because, from a trend standpoint, the data seem to be roughly the same at top 50 and top 75.
So without further ado, here’s the list of top 2010 TV shows available for streaming on the internet:
|4||NCIS: LA||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|5||Two and a Half Men||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|6||The Big Bang Theory||No||No||No||No|
|7||Desperate Housewives||Season 6||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|8||Criminal Minds||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|9||Grey’s Anatomy||Season 6||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|10||The Good Wife||No||No||No||Yes|
|11||CSI: Miami||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|12||House||No||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|13||CSI: NY||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|14||Lost||Yes||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|17||Bones||Season 5||Season 6||Purchase only||Yes|
|19||Brothers and Sisters||Season 4||Season 5||Purchase only||Yes|
|22||Human Target||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|24||Modern Family||No||Season 2||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|25||Private Practice||No||Season 4||Purchase only||Yes|
|26||V||No||No||Season 1||Season 1|
|27||The Office||Season 6||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|28||How I Met Your Mother||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|29||Three Rivers||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|31||Rules of Engagement||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|33||Law and Order: SVU||Eleventh Year||Yes||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|34||Ghost Whisperer||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|35||Lie to Me||Season 2||Last 5 episodes||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|37||Family Guy||Season 8||Yes||Season 8||Season 8|
|38||Parenthood||No||Season 2||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|39||Accidentally on Purpose||No||No||No||Purchase only|
|40||Cougar Town||No||Last 5 episodes||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|41||Fringe||No||No||Season 2||Purchase only|
|42||Law and Order||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|43||The Simpsons||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|48||The Middle||No||No||Purchase only||No|
|49||The New Adventures of Old Christine||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
|50||Gary Unmarried||No||No||Purchase only||Purchase only|
Let’s total this up to see how the different services did:
|Partial Offering as Percentage||20%||36%||60%||82%|
|Complete Series as Percentage||4%||24%||56%||78%|
One of the first interesting trends to notice is that Hulu Plus seems to offer more recent episodes when it does but Netflix seems to offer older ones that are not available on Hulu. Oftentimes, the two offer different selection on the same show, allowing users with subscriptions to both services to get wider coverage. Yet, Hulu only offers a bit over one third of all the big rating getters last year and Netflix offers only one out of five of those series on a partial basis.
Current seasons seem to be a strength area for Hulu Plus and a substantial weakness for Netflix. This may be of some significance as far as the cord-cutter trend is concerned. A question one could pose here is whether cord-cutters want fresh content or not. If the latter is the case, then Netflix may provide enough. On the other hand, if cord-cutter expect to be able to get relatively recent shows on their TV, they will either have to check the Hulu Plus listing or purchase the episodes on an individual basis.
Another interesting note is that while many episodes are available for rent on iTunes and for sale on Amazon, the price difference tends to be pretty substantial with Amazon selling rights to own for $.99 per episode while Apple charges the same amount for the right to rent (they tend to charge $2.99 per episode for the right to own).
Breaking it down
If you want some of the series (let’s say one season but not the other), here’s what the data looks like:
… but if you want full coverage (ie. both the 2009 season that ended in 2010 and the 2010 season that bleeds into 2011), the data looks as follows:
Looking at the total numbers, the subscription model offered by Netflix and Hulu Plus seem to offer a relatively slim selection. However, the costs associated with purchasing season pass for every show one follows could get prohibitive (in the research, it appeared that shows averaged between $30 and $60 for a season pass).
All told, the Video On Demand services appear to have room for improvement. While Apple has an early lead in terms of overall coverage, its iTunes store is also the more expensive one, giving Amazon an opportunity to expand its footprint by selling titles at a lower price. In terms of availability, however, Apple seems to hold a very solid lead over its competitors.
The subscription model offered by Hulu Plus and Netflix, however, still have a long way to go if they are aiming to truly be disruptors.