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Netflix and 'House of Cards' vs. HBO

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's official. "House of Cards" is once again a monster hit for Netflix (NFLX - Get Report). The early returns are in and we now know just how many people are tuning-in to watch the Kevin Spacey/Robin Wright dramatic series.

Procera Networks measured these things and found that more than 500,000 Netflix subscribers watched all 13 new episodes within the first 72 hours of last Friday's release. Six to 10% of all Netflix subscribers watched at least one of the new shows.


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That comes out to 2% of all Netflix watchers in the United States spending nearly 10 solid hours last weekend watching all the new shows. It's another case in point illustrating the reality that Netflix has arrived. It's a major show business force challenging established rivals such as Time Warner's (TWC) HBO and others.

Netflix stock was down 0.48% to $432.88 in early trading in New York on Friday.

Cable-based programmers need to take notice. The Netflix business model, which allows its customers to watch programs at any time, is working. Last year, Netflix surpassed HBO in the total number of subscribers. Nearly 30 million of them at the end of 2013, according to the people at Statistic Brain.

The more interesting fact is that half of all Netflix subscribers streamed the programming on a video game console. Not via a $100+ monthly cable connection - 42% watch Netflix on their personal computers.

That means Netflix is now better at reaching younger viewers who prefer not bothering with relatively expensive HDTVs. There are new HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, a division of CBS  (CBS), and Starz (STRZA) Web sites which stream already-aired shows, But cable-based services are finding they can't compete with $10 monthly Netflix subscriptions. The more subscribers the more power Netflix wields when it comes to purchasing hot new programming.

Despite the large numbers watching "House of Cards" last weekend, preliminary reports show overall Netflix download/streaming speeds were not adversely affected by the demand.

For the record, the second season of "House of Cards" has also been a huge hit Europe as well as in China (an essential player in the story line).

(You can continue reading. Even if you haven't been keeping up I won't be giving away any of the plot twists).

An average of three new episodes were watched by U.S. viewers last weekend while five episodes was the average in Europe.

In China, popular video streaming service Sohu (SOHU) bought the rights to the series and released all 13 second-season shows at the same time as Netflix. Although ultimately not as popular as some if its home-grown Chinese programming, "House of Cards" was reportedly the top-watched American TV show on Sohu last weekend.

Sohu said the first season of "House of Cards" garnered nearly 25 million online views.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

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