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Streaming service wars: the battle for original programming, charted

Streaming service wars: the battle for original programming, charted


Netflix's big red machine reigns supreme

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2015 will be remembered as the year streaming services' original content reached levels of quantity and quality you'd expect from a network or premium cable service. Amazon is pulling in Emmy nods for shows like Transparent and attracting established talent like Bryan Cranston; Hulu is cornering the market on Seinfeld syndication and making shows of their own; Netflix is churning out so much programming that it's expanding by focusing on mediocrity.

At this point, it feels like a new series order or premiere date is announced every other day. With that in mind, it's worth taking a step back and evaluating just how active Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have become in their few years as purveyors of original content. And in the spirit of Hack Week, what better way to compare these three giants than with a fancy, filterable chart?

A note regarding the methodology behind this chart: I counted each discrete season of a show as one entry in a given year. For example, Orange Is the New Black added one to Netflix's total in the 2013, 2014, 2015, and TBA categories (because it's been renewed for a fourth season). I also counted every pilot Amazon included in a given batch of new shows in the count, even if the pilot wasn't picked up for a full series order. The shows are separated by genre so we can see where the services are placing their biggest bets — for example, Amazon has concentrated the bulk of its efforts to date on comedies and kids' shows.

Netflix is dominating this sphere

I could've made a few decisions differently in tabulating the data, and it wouldn't have mattered — Netflix is dominating this sphere. It's responsible for over 70 percent of the items counted, though that percentage is artificially inflated by the huge number of confirmed renewals and movie deals in its back pocket. (If you only count comedies and dramas, their share jumps down to 55 percent — still a majority, but not quite as staggering.) The service is set up well for continued dominance, too: it has more TBA shows than Amazon and Hulu combined.

Of course, these numbers are subject to rapid and staggering change. Amazon could announce a new batch of pilots and a few movie deals tomorrow. That volatility is a major reason why the TV landscape is so exciting right now. The chart also ignores the existence of both network and cable television, and companies in both categories are making their own moves into streaming content. (The inclusion of HBO alone would've completely transformed the data below.) But it makes for an interesting snapshot of the companies at the vanguard of streaming original content, a group with one obvious leader.