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And Almost 3x More Than the Closest Competitors

  • Netflix is estimated to be spending over 20 billion dollars on content in 2020, a 5x increase over their 2015 budget.
  • The closest competitor, Amazon, is estimated to have spent 6 billion dollars on content in 2019, or approximately 30% of Netflix’s total content budget.

Thinking back to the announcement that Netflix was going to release an entirely new TV show back in 2013 was a mind-blowing moment for television. House of Cards suddenly turned the streaming service from a content library to a content producer, just like the networks it was partnered with.

Over the last seven years, we’ve honestly lost count of how many Netflix originals the network has produced and distributed, and this gamble has been a massive success for the greater part of the last decade. Even with competition spiking, every quarter it’s the same story, that the service is adding more content and subscribers.

Of course all of this costs a considerable amount of money. Looking back at Netflix’s history of spending, the cost of running the streaming giant has grown exponentially. Here are the numbers, as reported by Netflix in their quarterly reporting, on how much they’re spending each year:

Year Content Spend (*estimated)
2015 $4.5 billion
2016 $7 billion
2017 $9 billion
2018 $12 billion
2019 $14.5 billion
2020 $20.5 billion*

As the numbers above indicate, Netflix continues to increase their annual content spend by considerable amounts. Thinking back to the mid 2010s, when numbers like five billion were floating around on their annual content budget, we remember being shocked by the unimaginable amount of money, which now pales in comparison.

And of course it’s worth noting that as competition among streaming services continues to rise, the cost for the rights to a show or to produce a new original series go up as well. Bidding wars for content are becoming more normal in television, as show producers have more places than ever to pitch their ideas.

While some people have argued that the overall quality of Netflix Originals has lost their HBO-like quality, the service has stood by their strategy that making a wide array of content available to subscribers will always be their focus. It’s also difficult to predict what shows and movies might become critical or commercial darlings. As an example, the show YOU, originally dropped by cable television, got picked up by Netflix and has since gone on to be one of Netflix’s most popular shows of the past two years.

With that, it’s obvious that Netflix has strategically planned their shotgun approach, with tons of spending on hundreds of new titles a year, hoping some will catch cultural attention.

Other competitors seem primed to spend big as well. Amazon is estimated to have spent over six billion dollars on content in 2019, and services like Apple TV and Hulu are not far behind. And it goes without saying, the world’s largest entertainment company, Disney, is going to be spending big in the streaming TV market with their recently-launched Disney+.

How high this number can sustainably grow is going to be an interesting trend to follow.

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