The Netflix library of shows and movies is shrinking

Down 50% over four years

Can't find anything you want to watch on Netflix? That may be because there's actually less to choose from than there once was, according to a new report.

Exstreamist looked into just how many shows and movies were available on the service in the US (the home of Netflix) for the month of September 2016, using the uNoGS database crawler. It found 5,302 shows available to view in the US.

While the database doesn't allow for historical searches, Exstreamist spoke with sources who used to work at Netflix, who estimated that the same show count would have been closer to 11,000 four years ago. That's a drop-off in content of close to 50%, if Exstreamist's sources are to be believed.

Netflix Originals

So, what's caused this apparent decline? It seems that Netflix is cutting back on licensing third-party content, in favor of producing its own original shows.

There's simple economics behind this decision - making its own shows is costly for Netflix, and yet so is licensing third party content. Netflix Originals are owned by the streaming giant, so its after-production costs are kept relatively low, and there's money to be made from licensing the shows out after their initial streaming run.

In addition, as Netflix has expanded into more international territories, where licensing costs can vary wildly out of favor for Netflix, it's made more sense to focus on shows it makes itself. Show counts from territory to territory can vary dramatically due to these costs, but the ultimate conclusion remains the same - more Netflix Originals, fewer third-party options.

As a data-driven company, Netflix would have made this decision based on viewing habits too. There's a chicken-and-egg scenario to a degree (you're going to watch Netflix Originals through Netflix if third-party content is lacking), but the exclusive nature (and genuinely high standard it has set) for its own shows and movies would naturally lead to those titles performing best, and becoming worthy of further investment.

So there may well be fewer shows to view on Netflix - but the stuff that's left is probably the stuff you're actually going to watch.