Global Streaming Boom Likely to Dip in 2021, Says Analysis From NATPE

Streamers ruled NATPE even if super indies made most of the big announcements. That said, global platforms won’t have it all their own way in 2021, Omdia, a London consultancy, predicted in a NATPE Miami presentation.

In 2020, across the 328 online video subscription services that Omdia tracks, more subscribers —  over 226 million — were added to the VOD industry than at any other point in history, Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete said on a NATPE Miami Panel.

“2020 has been a fantastic year for the video streaming market,” she explained in a presentation on the current state of play for streamers. “Pandemic had people locked down at home, but in terms of growth and in terms of paid additions to online subscriptions, it was one of the best years ever.”

In contrast, in 2021, the four fastest-growing services of 2020 — Netflix, Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime — are expected to see significant declines in net additions. The reason? The pool of potential new subscribers was vastly reduced in 2020.

“Most of the people who would subscribe to video streaming services did so in 2020, meaning the pool of those that can be targeted is now smaller, and it will be more difficult to get new clients,” she pointed out.

The picture is especially grim for Apple TV Plus, according to Rua Aguete, who noted that the majority of Apple TV Plus subscribers in 2020 were doing so on a free trial. Whether or not Apple can continue to run the service as a loss leader for its Apple One bundle, as was the case for Amazon Prime Video for several years, meant to prop up the company’s Prime membership benefits, is yet to be seen.

By comparison, Apple’s catalog is dwarfed in many markets by those of the big subscription platforms such as Netflix, HBO Max and Amazon Prime Video, or even free services like Pluto TV. With few originals or exclusives on offer, Apple will need to address its catalog issues if its ambitions are to compete with more established players.

As for those major platforms, to grow further they must be more open to integrated deals with pay-TV providers and telcos, such as further integrated libraries and even the bundling of SVOD services, Rua Aguete argued.

Other opportunities could arise in diversifying away from simply streaming and partnering outside of film and TV production, such as gaming, podcasts, music and, in what Rua Aguete described as the Disney-fication of the industry, merchandise. She even went as far as to suggest that a major platform like Netflix might consider buying an existing merchandise manufacturer to emulate the money-making machine that Disney has with its retail business.

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