The true cost of Netflix

When Netflix IPO'd in May of 2002, the company was valued at a mere $300 million. Over the last 15 years Netflix has been on a rampage capturing 100 million subscribers and $81 billion in market cap. Yet Netflix has apprehended something far more valuable: our precious time.

Of course, there's a time and a place for entertainment: who doesn't enjoy getting into a good show every now and again?

However, this entertainment comes at a dear cost far exceeding the $11.99/mo membership fee. If you believe time is our most precious commodity, than we must acknowledge the massive opportunity cost that we sacrifice every night in front of the screen.

Let's start with some facts

  • The average subscriber spends 20 hours per week on Netflix
  • . . . That's 80 hours per month
  • 70% of Netflix users binge-watch shows
  • Netflix streamed 10 billion hours last month
  • The Netflix catalog is approximately 115,000 hours of content (21 years; waking hours)

Sources: DMR, CinemaBlend, Variety

20 hours per week is a lot

Let's start by acknowledging the obvious: 20 hours per week is a LOT of time. In most states, 20 hours per week is considered part-time employment. With 55 million subscribers in the US, you can say that 17% of Americans have a part-time job watching Netflix (US population = 323 million). This absurd reality provokes a crucial question: is this really the best use of our time?

The importance of personal development 

The short answer is no. Watching Netflix for 20 hours per week is likely not the best use of our time. Life is short. Really short. And for life to improve, we must heed the guidance of legends like Jim Rohn when he writes:

"Learn to work harder on yourself, than you do on the job."

Side note: if you haven't read The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn, it comes highly recommended from most of the executives we work with.

Only by building the habit of daily personal development can we truly improve our personal and professional wellbeing. Netflix is kryptonite to this endeavor.

"Want to watch a show?"

The question sounds innocent enough. Enticing, even. But next time you ask—or get asked—this question, make sure you keep this perspective in mind:

  • The typical human is awake for 15 hours per day, or 105 hours per week
  • As stated, Netflix is commanding 20 hours per week (on average)
  • 20 hours / 105 hours = 19% of our waking hours are devoted to Netflix

Breakdown: How we spend our time in a given week

Hours per week. Source:

What else could we be doing?

Below is a chart of Netflix binge sessions and their personal development equivalent.

On Netflix you could watch: Or you could: Time required
1 episode - Archer Run 2-3 miles 22 minutes
1 episode - House of Cards Write a blog post 50 minutes
2 episodes - The Blacklist Bike 20 miles 1.4 hours
3 episode - Orange is the New Black Read 82pp. of a book 2.75 hours
4 episodes - Stranger Things Learn 5 new subjects on Khan Academy 3.2 hours
Season 1 - House of Cards Complete Stanford's CS101 online 10.8 hours
Season 1 & 2 - Orange is the New Black Learn how to program in C 23.8 hours
All 5 seasons - House of Cards Train for a marathon 54.2 hours
All 7 seasons - The West Wing Become conversational in Italian 112.9 hours
All seasons - HoC, OitNB, The West Wing Read 34 of the 51 Harvard Classics 227.1 hours
21 weeks of Netflix (at 20 hours/week) Build the first version of Facebook 420 hours

You are always choosing

So the next time you're tempted to binge of Netflix, keep the above list in mind. Realize that you are always choosing: a choice to watch Netflix for 3 hours is also choice to NOT learn 5 new subjects on Khan Academy. A choice to weekendbinge on 2 seasons of your favorite show, is a choice to NOT learn how to program at a basic level. 

Every decision has tradeoffs, and the more we keep this in mind, the better off we'll be on our quest for transformative personal development.

Next episode playing in. . .

You can also disable autoplay: This one decision could help reduce your Netflix consumption by up to 50%. I'm curious: what would you do with the extra time?