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Netflix blew past Wall Street expectations this week and added close to 7.5 million new subscribers. Its popularity has been leaving rivals Amazon and Hulu in the dust. NPR's Laura Sydell looks at whether the company that made binge watching a thing can keep this up.
LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Back in 2013, when "House Of Cards," starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, premiered, it was groundbreaking TV. Big producers like HBO, Showtime, AMC had turned it down. But as a subscription streaming service, Netflix had been able to gather a lot of data about its users, and it saw a perfect fit.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE OF CARDS")
ROBIN WRIGHT: (As Claire Underwood) I have a history with Francis. I have a future with him. And it's bigger than a moment.
SYDELL: It was bigger than a moment. The viewers loved it, and it became the first original online-only series to receive major Emmy nominations.
DANIEL IVES: Right now Netflix is the only game in town.
SYDELL: Daniel Ives is an analyst at GBH Insights who follows Netflix. Ives says, on average, viewers spend five hours a week on Hulu and Amazon and 10 hours a week on Netflix.
IVES: They just continue to have just massive fuel in the tank. They have just a competitive moat which is widening.
SYDELL: And the moat could get bigger. Netflix signed deals with Shonda Rhimes, creator of hit shows such as "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," and Ryan Murphy, the producer behind "Glee." Plus Netflix has expanded to 190 countries. It allowed Netflix to create a global hit.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "DARK")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character, speaking German).
SYDELL: "Dark," a sci-fi horror drama, was produced in Germany. Netflix says there's another season coming. This year, Netflix also won its first Academy Award for the documentary, "Icarus," about doping among cyclists. Sid Ganis, a film producer and the former president of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, says Netflix has established itself as a place for high-quality content.
SID GANIS: You go out there and pitch Netflix, you better have something good. Or, very often, they pass. I have my own personal experience with Netflix's passing.
SYDELL: And while a lot of people see a big wide horizon for Netflix, Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, has always been a skeptic. Pachter points out that even one of its biggest hits, "House Of Cards," is licensed, he says so far Netflix has produced very little of its own original content.
MICHAEL PACHTER: And we think you've never heard of any of them, except "Stranger Things." You've never heard of "Flaked," and if you've heard of "The Ranch," it's only because Danny Masterson has been accused of rape.
SYDELL: And Pachter sees a cloud over Netflix. Disney is going to pull its content from the site and create its own streaming service. And Disney is buying 21st Century Fox's film and TV assets.
PACHTER: Disney singlehandedly can stick a dagger in Netflix's heart next year. Let's see what they do.
SYDELL: And while Netflix has been slowly building respect in Hollywood and around the world, Disney and Fox have a long track record of creating globally popular TV series and films. Laura Sydell, NPR News.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio version of this story, we say that Netflix won its first Academy Award for the documentary Icarus, but in fact Netflix had won an Academy Award in 2017 for the short film White Helmets. Also, we say Netflix added close to 7.5 million subscribers this week. In fact, it added them during the first quarter of the year.]
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