Is Netflix Really Bigger Than Comcast?

Netflix (NFLX) released its quarterly earnings yesterday and, while the market was somewhat underwhelmed, subscriber numbers are impressive. In fact, GigaOm declares, “Netflix Now Officially Has More Subscribers Than Comcast.”

Indeed, at first blush, Netflix’s 23.6 million subscribers does exceed Comcast’s 22.8 million. But what exactly does that suggest and is it a reasonable comparison?

From a financial stand point, the proclamation doesn’t hold water as Comcast’s revenue is orders of magnitudes larger than Netflix’s. And it’s not like these two are necessarily direct competitors. Sure, there’s a cord cutting contingent that relies on Netflix to augment their “television” viewing. But many subscribe to both pay television services and Netflix, as I do. Additionally, Netflix is available nationwide whereas Comcast only operates in select regions. So, perhaps a comparison to HBO’s 28+ million subscribers is more appropriate. But, again, these movie services are not mutually exclusive.

At the end of the day, Netflix’s success and service is admirable (although its streaming content catalog is still lacking), and illustrates how folks seek out alternate distribution methods. Yet, at the end of the day, its rise seems inversely proportional to the demise of Blockbuster’s retail video rental business, rather than an assault on the established premium TV providers.

Check out more of Dave’s reflections on tech and media at Zatz Not Funny.

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