It’s no secret: Traditional cable networks like Viacom, Inc. (NASDAQ:VIAB) and Time Warner Inc (NYSE:TWX) have had their backs planted firmly against the wall thanks to the rising popularity in streaming content from companies like Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). But a recent report from Bernstein may have added another layer of support to the bullish NFLX stock story, while digging the knife deeper into traditional networks.
The primary finding from the report?
The average viewership in children’s networks, by children, has declined 50% over the past six years “and it’s still declining at high-teens rates.”
A Small Victory for NFLX Stock
As the report notes, the fact that children’s television viewership has been declining is not in itself a newsworthy revelation, but the massive 50% decline is. Especially, when you consider how damaging it is to big-time networks like Viacom:
“For those who think our negative view on Viacom is too extreme or alarmist, we would suggest that’s a pretty potent reminder of just how devastating this consumer trend is for them. The Nickelodeon networks account for roughly 35-40% of Viacom’s Media Networks EBITDA, and viewership of those networks has fallen in half.”
And VIAB isn’t the only company suffering from this trend. These numbers are consistent with TWX’s Cartoon Network and Walt Disney Co’s (NYSE:DIS) Disney XD, which “has been the kids’ ad-supported network that has fallen the farthest, losing almost 2/3 of its peak audience.”
In fact, a whopping 22 million adults in the U.S. are expected to have “cut the cord” by the end of 2017 — 33% greater than the jump in 2016.
But the Bernstein report does not assert that its findings are directly significant to NFLX stock; instead, it focuses on the effect on advertising and big-time toy manufactures, such as Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ:HAS) and Mattel, Inc. (NASDAQ:MAT):
“[E]ffectively half of the kids in the marketplace are no longer available to be reached by TV. And the kids who remain glued in front of the linear TV network feed, we hate to say it, likely over-index toward households that don’t have/can’t afford Netflix or iPads. In other words, lower income households, who are (generally, for most product categories) less attractive advertising targets because they have less purchasing power.”
Still, regardless of whether Netflix is able to steal some of the children-focused advertising from the major networks — Bernstein assumes Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOG, NASDAQ:GOOGL) YouTube will be the greatest beneficiary — I’d argue that the findings are significant to the overall strength of the streaming service company’s long-term outlook.
The report implies that the shift in children’s viewing habits will inevitably force the major networks into placing children’s networks into higher-tier channel packages that out-price the cost of Netflix and other streamers. This would potentially reduce “2/3 of their distribution,” which presents a unique opportunity for Netflix — a company that is not known for its kid-focused programming.
However, when you look at the bigger picture, the long-lasting implications are even greater, regardless of whether NFLX stock can capitalize on children’s programming.
Although NFLX stock did not see a significant rise off of the report — Bernstein did not directly assess children’s viewership habits on the popular streaming service — it has soared more than 47% year-to-date on other positive happenings, some of which are related to the findings.
For example, Reuters recently reported that Netflix and other streamers, such as Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Hulu have been nabbing top television talent to help generate exclusive content for their respective streaming platforms.
The resumes behind most of the recent talent acquisitions — including an endless list of well-known comedians with exclusive Netflix specials — focus on adult-based content, but even so, it plays into the greater long-term story for Netflix stock. This is true when you consider the changes in children’s viewing habits and how they might evolve into adulthood.
Netflix is still the go-to platform for adults and if it can maintain this title while increasing the demand for and quality of its exclusive content, it should continue to be adopted by maturing, cordless audiences and remain the leader in the years to come.
Of course, TWX still has popular adult programming with soon-to-be-concluded mega-hits like HBO’s Game of Thrones, but Netflix brings its A-game with a constantly growing pool of exclusive, adult-focused content. In fact, “Netflix released an around 126 original series or films in 2016, more than any other single American network or cable channel. In comparison, Amazon did around 20.”
As of now, Netflix remains the king of exclusive, adult content on the ever-popular streaming medium.
Bottom Line on NFLX Stock
Is it possible that children’s viewing habits, as stated in the Bernstein report, reflect the inevitable demise of traditional cable networks? It might be too soon to say, but given the facts in the report and the recent talent acquisitions from other streamers, the possibility gains further traction.
It may not be a profound statement, but it’s undeniable that as our youth adopt cord-less viewing patterns, they will likely carry these habits into adulthood. And with additional threats from the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, alongside the continued strength in NFLX stock, the old-school way of viewing content may soon become a thing of the past.
With “around 30% of American adults” expected to be without traditional pay TV and the number of cord-cutters expected to match “the number of people who have never had TV” by 2021, the long-term potential for NFLX stock is undeniable as long as it can maintain its lead.
Robert Waldo is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.