Report: Streaming Video Services to See Subscriber Growth Slowdown in 2021; Apple TV+ to Lose 8 Million Subs

Approaching 2021 could see a significant slowdown in subscriber growth among major subscription streaming video services, according to new data from Omdia/Informa Tech. The London research firm said that following outlier sub growth this year due to the pandemic among major services such as Netflix and Disney+, sustaining a similar growth curve next year could be challenging. Omdia said SVOD services worldwide added a combined 226 million subs in 2020.

“All industries and economies tend to move between waves of growth and pools of stagnation and SVOD is no exception,” Rua Aguete, senior director of media and entertainment, said in a note. “While 2020 was a year for the records, 2021 will be a year of industry-wide cooling despite the myriad services coming from big Hollywood players including Discovery, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS and WarnerMedia.”

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Not surprisingly, Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video all saw significant net sub adds stemming from pandemic-affected markets. In 2021, these services are expected to see declines, with Netflix and Prime Video eyeing their slowest sub growth since 2015.

Netflix and Disney+ had 195 million and 86.8 million subs at the end of the third quarter (ended Sept. 30) and Dec. 2, respectively.

Notably, Aquete  estimates AppleTV+ will lose 8 million subs by the end of 2021, due in part to the termination of free 12-month trials and relative lack of original content compared to competing services.

“The reason for this stark contrast with the year before is that SVOD, more than many other types of entertainment, must maintain a healthy pipeline of potential new subscribers and carefully manage the high level of churn that is incumbent to monthly subscription products,” she said. “2020 has seen this pipeline exhausted; new subscribers have been converted at astonishing rates and the pool of subscribers in potential have been vastly reduced.”

To sustain sub growth, Aquete said SVOD services such as Netflix need to partner with pay-TV operators and telecoms providing direct access and integrated content libraries to their subs.

“2020 may have been a year of hubris for the SVOD industry, booming as all others struggled, but 2021 will be a year of humility; for the first time big SVOD players must rely on former rivals for their own success,” Aquete said.

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