Comcast said a recent report from research firm NPD Group that found Netflix dominates the digital movie market was inaccurate, with the cable operator arguing the study does not provide an apples-to-apples comparison between the companies' services.
NPD, in a report released March 15, said Netflix's share of the digital movie market was 61% between January and February 2011, followed by Comcast at 8%. According to NPD, there was a three-way tie for third place, with DirecTV, Time Warner Cable and Apple at 4%.
Comcast said the NPD methodology is flawed. That's because, according to the MSO, the research firm's VideoWatch Digital tracker includes all the movies streamed via Netflix's on-demand service -- but includes only movies from cable, satellite or telco TV providers for which an additional per-movie fee is charged.
If the number of views for Comcast's free and premium VOD movies were included, Comcast would have 54% share all movie viewing versus 31% for Netflix in the operator's markets, the cable company said.
In a statement, Comcast senior vice president and general manager of video services Marcien Jenckes said: "The study by NPD is incorrect. It looked at the entire universe of Netflix movie viewing including pay-per-view, free and premium movies and only looked at Comcast's pay-per-view films. The study ignored 80% of our on-demand movie library including the free and premium films, which our customers watch five times more than the pay-per-view films -- not to mention they ignored additional movie viewing through Xfinitytv.com and our iPad app."
The VideoWatch Digital study was based on 10,618 online surveys of U.S. consumers 13 and older, conducted between January and the third week of February 2011.
Comcast also noted that the study wasn't based on actual usage data; rather, the survey asked consumers which movie titles they had viewed recently and how those movies were delivered digitally to the home.
Asked for a response, NPD entertainment industry analyst Russ Crupnick said the VideoWatch Digital research service is an extension of the firm's tracking of physical DVD and Blu-ray Disc purchases and rentals.
"Our clients' first priority for digital was to look at the business models that truly compete for consumer dollars these days, especially for home video dollars, and at emerging distribution channels that offer opportunity to replace physical revenues," Crupnick wrote in an e-mail. "The plain truth is these models are first and foremost coming from transactional VOD (the $4.95 kind in my cable system), electronic sell-through (a la Apple), online rentals (Apple and Amazon, for example), and Netflix."
Eventually, Crupnick said, NPD expects to include free VOD movies offered by cable companies, as well as those from premium subscriptions, but "they are not business models that are a first priority," he wrote. "Honestly there's not a lot of revenue implication from including Jim Belushi's 1989 'hit' K-9."
It's worth noting, however, that many of Netflix's newest titles available for instant streaming are available through its deal with Starz Entertainment -- whereas NPD's comparison excludes premium VOD views of Starz content watched via traditional TV operators.
For its part, Comcast says its VOD service offers more than 11,000 movies at any given time in many of markets. It serves an average of more than 350 million VOD views per month overall, of which "tens of millions" are of movies.