As of 2018, Netflix is well on its way to hitting 120 million subscribers, with nearly half of those in the U.S. The company added 8 million subscribers just in the last quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, even its next largest competitor, Amazon Prime Video, only has around 80 million worldwide and around 30 million in the U.S.
Yet the company’s subscription numbers are not the only reason it’s dominating its market. In general, it appears the service is better at generating interest. Using Google Trends data, Netflix clearly outmatches its closest competitors, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, by an extremely large margin.
When compared to other U.S.-based services Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Tubi TV and Sling TV (an over-the-top TV service), Netflix has a crazy amount of search volume.
It may be easy to attribute this attention to the company’s original content strategy. However, extending the Google Trends timeline back to 2004 (the first year Trends data is available) reveals something very interesting:
It appears that back in around 2008 to 2010, Netflix and Hulu had equivalent search volumes. What this means is that overall interest in both companies was around the same at that time. However, after 2010, Netflix began its steep march toward market dominance in the emerging streaming services industry.
At some point in 2010 and afterward, consumers decided Netflix was a far more interesting service. But why?
One possible answer is that Netflix went international. Meanwhile, Hulu remained a U.S.-only service. Of course, during that time Netflix also added far more content. Hulu’s library, on the other hand, remained comparatively small.
Can Hulu et. al. find the same kind of success in the market? Perhaps. But if Trends data is any indication, they may have missed their opportunity years ago.