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Netflix scores big with 'Breaking Bad' but streaming wars loom large

Alexandra Canal

Last week, Netflix (NFLX) scored two big wins — one financial, the other content-related — just as the streaming wars enter their most competitive phase to date.

“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” debuted with 6.5 million viewers in its opening weekend after dropping on the streaming platform the previous week, according to Deadline, citing Nielsen data. About 40% of those viewers, or a little under 2.6 million, watched the first day.

Secretly shot over 50 days, “El Camino” picks up right where the hit cable drama “Breaking Bad” left off six years ago when the season 5 premiere garnered an audience of 5.9 million. The opening day viewership was comparable with most of the show’s run.

The "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" cast and crew celebrate the film premiere at Regency Village Theatre on October 07, 2019 in Westwood, California.
The "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" cast and crew celebrate the film premiere at Regency Village Theatre on October 07, 2019 in Westwood, California.

Before surging in its fifth and final season, largely thanks to Netflix, “Breaking Bad” averaged roughly 1.7 million same-day viewers per episode — ending with an epic 10+ million audience number for the series finale.

However, Netflix typically cautions against Nielsen ratings, arguing the data doesn’t provide a full picture as the firm only counts TV viewership and not other devices like a phone or tablet.

Additionally, Nielsen only measures U.S. audiences, whereas Netflix reports worldwide numbers, as its business model heavily relies on global subscribers.

Questions linger after strong quarter

Meanwhile, Netflix impressed investors with an earnings beat on Wednesday. Yet some of those figures raised more questions about whether the streaming giant could keep defying gravity.

Struggling subscriber growth and light fourth quarter guidance dampened the platform’s recent successes, just as competitors like Disney (DIS) and Apple (AAPL) prepare for eagerly anticipated November launches.

Last week, Disney Plus unveiled its entire slate of content via Twitter thread. And ahead of Apple TV+’s debut of “The Morning Show,” star Jennifer Aniston made her record-breaking Instagram debut last week.

Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance
Graphic by David Foster/Yahoo Finance

Netflix responded to the increased competition in a letter to shareholders on Wednesday:

“Many are focused on the ‘streaming wars,’ but we’ve been competing with streamers (Amazon, YouTube, Hulu) as well as linear TV for over a decade... While the new competitors have some great titles (especially catalog titles), none have the variety, diversity and quality of new original programming that we are producing around the world,” the company said.

Netflix spent roughly $15 billion on creating and licensing content this year — with that number expected to increase by 20% in 2020.

Alexandra Canal is a Producer at Yahoo Finance.

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