Netflix inches back the curtain on how subscribers stream

Netflix is normally secretive with its data, but it's giving us a peek into how members stream by device, country, connection type -- even genre.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read
Matt Elliott/CNET

If you're always watching your Netflix on a tablet on the go, you might just be a Finnish preschooler. 

Scott Mirer, Netflix's vice president of device partnerships, on Wednesday gave reporters a broad snapshot of how Netflix's global subscriber base is streaming by device type, country, mobile versus Wi-Fi connection, genre -- even by the type of content at certain times of certain days in certain countries. 

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Netflix usage on mobile networks versus WiFi connections varies by country. 

Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Netflix is secretive about how many people are watching its originals, much to the chagrin of traditional Hollywood. But during Labs Day, a press junket that brings journalists from more than 30 countries to its Los Gatos, California, headquarters for deep dives into its service -- Netflix littered its presentations with data about how its 117 million subscribers use the service. 

Globally throughout the day, Netflix users' streaming on mobile networks hovers near or below 25 percent of total streaming. But places like Finland are nearly an inverse of the norm: At certain points during the day, mobile usage approaches 75 percent of streaming compared with Wi-Fi. Mexico, on the other hand, streams almost all its Netflix over a Wi-Fi connection. Countries like South Korea have mobile peaks during commuting hours, and France watches on phones while en route to work and at lunch.

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Televisions are the most popular screen for streaming Netflix, but device preference varies by genre.

Joan E. Solsman/CNET

TV remains the device where most Netflix streaming occurs, but the full breakdown of streaming by devices varies by genre. Kids content is watched on tablets more so than other types of programming. Sci-fi tends to stream to computers. 

Preference for movies versus television also changes throughout the day. Generally, members gravitate to movies on weekend evenings. But in Sweden and Canada during the winter, subscribers are more likely to watch a movie in the evening than elsewhere. 

Mirer said that because the US is about 50 percent of its members, Netflix's global averages are mostly reflective of US patterns.

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