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Netflix is getting a big boost in subscribers from mobile

Teeny tiny screens aren’t the deterrent we thought they’d be.

Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

Netflix handily beat Wall Street expectations by nearly two million subscribers, adding 5.2 million in the second quarter of 2017 and reaching 100 million total subscribers for the first time. It can thank mobile for some of that gain.

Netflix’s U.S. revenue from iOS and Google Play — which includes Netflix subscriptions purchased through the app on a smartphone or tablet — was higher than any other app last quarter, according to app measurement company App Annie.

Netflix first reached the No. 1 spot in the fourth quarter of 2016, having steadily climbed the ranks since it began offering subscriptions through the app stores in September 2015. It dropped briefly to second place in Q1, but App Annie says that was mostly a blip. Topping the app store in revenue is a sign that many are enrolling for Netflix through its mobile app (smart TVs are not included in this data).

Top apps on Google and Apples app stores by U.S. revenue

Rank Q2 2017 Q2 2016 Q2 2015
Rank Q2 2017 Q2 2016 Q2 2015
1 Netflix Spotify Pandora Radio
2 Pandora Radio HBO Now HBO Now
3 HBO Now Pandora Radio Spotify
4 Tinder Netflix Match
5 Spotify Hulu Beats Music
Source: App Annie

And they’re watching on mobile, too.

Americans spent about 7.5 billion minutes watching Netflix on their phones in June of 2017, according to data from media measurement company ComScore, up 73 percent since 2014.

And smartphone viewership is growing much faster than other digital platforms. Non-smartphone digital (desktops and tablets) viewership increased just 48 percent in that time, according to comScore.

Netflix monthly active mobile users in the U.S. grew 20 percent year over year in the U.S. to 70 million, according to App Annie. Monthly active app users exceeds Netflix total number of U.S. subscribers — 52 million — because there are often multiple users per subscription as well as individuals viewing on multiple devices.

Netflix smartphone viewership is part of a larger trend of more people watching online video on mobile.

“We've had great success on mobile in the developed markets like the U.S. and Europe, and then throughout Latin America and now in Asia,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said during the company’s earnings call last week. “We're continuing to get better and better at encoding efficiently our films and TV series so that it takes less and less network bandwidth, and we are rising in popularity around the world.”

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