As Netflix dips into gaming, streaming competitors are gobbling up its market share, new data shows.
In the last two years, Netflix and Hulu's combined share of streaming video subscriptions in the U.S. has dropped from nearly 75% to below 50%, according to New York-based analytics outfit Antenna.
The new data show as those behemoths mature and growth slows, their upstart competitors are charging in. Disney Plus (17% share), HBO Max (11%) and Paramount Plus (8%) have steadily elbowed their way in since 2019, just as the pandemic reshuffled theatrical releases and increased the profile of streamers.
Meanwhile smaller niche services have grown at an even faster clip than their larger competitors.
Subscribers for the ten so-called "specialty" subscription streamers that Antenna tracks — including Cinemax, BET Plus and Sundance Now — have collectively grown 74% over the last two years. The larger streamers, including Disney Plus, Netflix and Hulu, have grown just 30%.
While their growth rates are larger, these niche streamers only have a small fraction of the market. Whereas Netflix has over 200 million subscribers, Acorn TV, Shudder and Sundance Now – all of which are owned by AMC Networks – have fewer than 9 million subscribers combined.
"Netflix and Hulu are so well saturated in the U.S. market. So you can't expect them to grow at the rate they used to," said media analyst Dan Rayburn.
Antenna derives its data from aggregating credit card transactions and email receipts from about five million Americans' mobile apps, then blending it with internal models to estimate metrics like sign-ups, subscribers and churn rates.
Absent from the figures is noteworthy streaming platform Amazon Prime Video, which comes included with an Amazon Prime subscription, and has an oncoming infusion of content following Amazon's $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM Studios.
In the year to June 2021, the fastest growing services in the U.S. in terms of subscribers were Sundance Now (83% growth year-over-year), Paramount Plus (81%), EPIX (74%), HBO Max (72%) and BET (71%), according to the data.
Netflix U.S. subscribers actually fell by 1% in the period, while Hulu (6%) and Disney Plus (27%) saw relatively tepid growth – albeit from significantly higher subscriber bases than many of their smaller, faster-growing competitors.
And the relatively high growth rates among the specialty services, which stream fare for specific audiences like fans of British TV or horror, suggest there may be room for niche services to survive the streaming war, which remains an open question.
- Can Netflix Keep Growing? - dot.LA ›
- Netflix buys Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre to stage post-pandemic ... ›
- Analysts Say Gaming and Shopping Won't Save Netflix - dot.LA ›
Despite intensifying competition in the streaming wars, Bank of America analysts said on Tuesday they see Netflix remaining content king and predict shares of the Los Gatos company will jump to $680 per share by this time next year.
Netflix was trading around $541 midday Tuesday.
The streaming wars are in the midst of a heated round of consolidation. Amazon shelled out for MGM in late May, following a mega merger between WarnerMedia, which runs HBO Max, and Discovery. Both deals remain subject to regulatory approval.
To keep up, BofA analysts said in a research report they suspect Netflix is eying franchises and other intellectual property it can spin into new films and shows to bolster its selection. That would be the opposite approach that its competitor Amazon took when it spent $8.45 billion to gobble up MGM Studios for the iconic Hollywood studio's library content.
Netflix has been moving deeper into ecommerce, aiming to gain an edge over other streamers, but analysts are unimpressed.
This spring, Netflix opened a new online store, which sells gear like apparel and action figures tied to some of its content. And the streaming giant is reportedly looking to hire gaming executives, as reported by The Information. But the analysts said neither move is likely to give them a leg up.
Movies and Series
Netflix will be welcoming several new films each year from its recently announced multiyear partnership with Steven Spielberg's production studio, Amblin Partners. The analysts cheered the deal, calling it "instrumental" in bolstering Netflix's movie pipeline. They also called out the second seasons of "Lupin" (debuted in June), "Bridgerton" and "The Witcher" (both debuting later this year) as Netflix's most important original content right now.
Down the road, the analysts are watching what may come of the UK government's plans to regulate U.S. streaming services. It is unclear what changes will result, but the analysts highlighted the U.K. Culture Secretary's fears that some viewers may consider hit series "The Crown" as nonfiction. The government's plans are set to be announced later this week.
- Can Netflix Keep Growing? - dot.LA ›
- Documentary Plus Free Streaming Service Debuts - dot.LA ›
- Hulu's Live TV Adds 14 More Channels, Discovery Plus Debuts - dot ... ›
- Netflix, Hulu and Disney Don't Want You Watching TV Alone - dot.LA ›
- Can a Niche Streaming Service Survive the Streaming Wars? - dot.LA ›
- As the Streaming Wars Heat Up, Why Are Consumers Losing Out ... ›
- Netflix Growth Stalls in the U.S. and Canada - dot.LA ›
- The Latest Signs of Netflix’s Loosening Grip - dot.LA ›
- 'Squid Game' Helps Netflix Add 4.4 Million Subscribers in Q3 - dot.LA ›
AT&T has decided to shed its entertainment assets in exchange for $43 billion and intends to merge them with Discovery into a new entertainment company, the companies announced Monday. The deal, which is expected to close in mid-2022, will still need to be approved by regulators.
The new company will combine streaming services HBO Max, which falls under AT&T's WarnerMedia subsidiary, and Discovery Plus, into a publicly traded parent company that is yet to be named.
Together, the new company will control nearly 200,000 hours' worth of programming and will invest about $20 billion per year in making more, said David Zaslav, the Discovery boss who will run the new firm. That level of spending will outpace the current content investment plans of two of the new service's biggest competitors: Netflix (which plans to invest $17 billion per year) and Disney ($8 billion to $9 billion on Disney Plus and $14 billion to $16 billion across Hulu, Star and ESPN Plus).
It is not yet clear the extent to which consumers will notice a change. Subscribers to HBO Max may receive a discount to Discovery Plus, and vice versa. Or a new service combining the companies' assets may yet launch. WarnerMedia's brands include HBO, TNT, TNN, CNN, Cartoon Network and Warner Bros Studio. Discovery's include HGTV, Food Network and Animal Planet.
Whether they are combined or remain separate, analysts say the content offerings of the two companies are complementary; Discovery's focus on reality television is an area where Warner's cupboard is relatively bare.
Among other implications, the move brings some foreseen consolidation to the streaming market. The nature of entertainment makes bundling content an economically advantageous strategy; that's partly why it's so hard for a niche streaming platform to succeed.
With over 200 million and 100 million subscribers respectively, Netflix and Disney have a big lead over a combination of HBO Max and Discovery Plus, which together serve around 60 million subscribers. Yet both of those leading platforms have been experiencing slowing growth and declining share prices following a banner 2020 that saw subscribers climb quickly amid the pandemic.
The merger will see some collateral damage ripple throughout the entertainment industry. In the announcement of the deal, the two companies boasted it would save the combined company $3 billion in "cost synergies" which, as with most mergers, will likely mean substantial amounts of people losing their jobs.
WarnerMedia's boss Jason Kilar is reportedly negotiating his exit. The former head of Hulu has become somewhat of a symbol of the move-fast-and-break-things approach to modernizing traditional entertainment, to the chagrin of many. Discovery's boss, David Zaslav, has been tapped to run the new company, according to the companies' statements.
Other players in the streaming market are also on notice. There are still likely more services in existence than consumers are willing to pay for, according to industry analysts.
Sony has seemingly committed to retaining its "arms dealer" strategy. NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS' platforms, Peacock and Paramount Plus, appear to have more ground to make up in a market that is even more competitive.
If the deal is approved, AT&T's shareholders would receive 71% worth of the new company's stock, with Discovery's shareholders receiving the remainder. The name of the new company is expected to be announced next week.
- WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar on Hulu and Disruption - dot.LA ›
- Paramount Plus' Cautious Approach to Streaming - dot.LA ›