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Despite Hype, Originals Are Still Risky for Netflix and Amazon

When CBS CEO Les Moonves took a jab at original shows being made by services like Netflix last week, saying “You need a great explorer like Marco Polo to find the actual audiences” for such shows, it was easy to assume the comment was grounded in some jealousy about the attention the shows are getting. Particularly as he highlighted how well CBS’ shows were doing when available on the same services.

But Mr. Moonves had a point. While there’s no data on how many people are watching the fast-growing list of originals—like “Marco Polo” and “House of Cards” on Netflix along with “Transparent” and “Bosch” on Amazon—there’s no disputing that these shows account for a minority of total programming hours and almost certainly a minority of total viewing.

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