Research: OTT Revenue Forecast to Reach $22 Billion in 2019

Based on 66 OTT providers, led by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, U.S. OTT access revenue grew 37% to $16.3 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach $22 billion in 2019, according to a new research from Convergence Research.

The research firm has released two new reports, “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: OTT and TV” and “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet, Telephone, Wireless.”

Still, U.S. TV subscriber average revenue per user (ARPU) is still forecast to be three times U.S. OTT subscriber household ARPU in 2021.

The firm estimates 2018 U.S. cable, satellite, telco TV access (not including OTT) revenue declined 3% to $103.4 billion in 2018 and forecasts 2019 will see a similar decline. Also, 2018 saw a decline of 4.01 million U.S. TV subscribers and 2017 a decline of 3.66 million, according to the firm, which forecasts a decline of 4.56 million TV subs for 2019. The U.S. TV subscriber
base will decline 5% in 2019, from a decline of 4% in 2018, according to the firm’s estimates.

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By the end of 2018, the firm estimates 30% of households did not have a traditional TV subscription with a cable, satellite, or telco TV access provider, up from 26% at the end of 2017. The firm forecasts that number to reach 34% of households by the end of 2019. Convergence Research estimates 2018 saw almost 5 million cord cutter/never household additions.

The firm projects that a number of OTT plays, including large and niche, will fail due to insufficient subscriber traction, cost and competition, noting major programmers continue to accelerate their direct-to-consumer drive, including Disney and WarnerMedia. Other developments noted by the firm include:

  • Hulu spends more on content per sub than either Amazon or Netflix and continues to discount (notably with Spotify);
  • CBS/Showtime’s OTT subscriber trajectory has been faster than expected;
  • Discovery has backed and supplied Philo, gone live with Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV, and will be launching an OTT service with the BBC;
  • NBC Universal will be launching an OTT service in 2020;
  • and Viacom has backed and supplied Philo and others, acquired Pluto and Awesomeness TV and is producing for Amazon and Netflix.

Netflix Expanding Global Mobile Strategy

Netflix is set launch mobile access in Spain next week as part of an existing deal with Telefónica, the Madrid-based multinational telecom. The SVOD pioneer and Telefónica rolled out a similar promotion in Brazil affording subscribers direct access to content.

The strategy is aimed at growing Netflix’s global subscriber count targeting the service’s least-used distribution channel: mobile. Indeed, 70% of Netflix programming is streamed through the television – a percentage that undermines the service’s attempt to create a larger global subscriber footprint in regions with heavy mobile platform use such as India.

In June, Netflix inked a deal with Vodafone affording the telecom’s Indian postpaid subs one year of free Netflix access. That promotion is aimed at telecom rival Airtel’s pact with Amazon Prime Video.

Netflix, which has similar Vodafone agreements in New Zealand and Australia, is currently offering one-year of free service to T-Mobile subscribers in the United States.

The promotions are part of a concerted effort to raise mobile streaming of Netflix content. In 2016 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Netflix revealed 50% of its users accessed the service on their smartphone, yet only 10% actually streamed content.

“Behavior on mobile is different,” Scott Meyer, VP of Netflix’s device partner ecosystem, said at the time. “We’re just starting to learn about this.”

Flash forward two years and Netflix thinks subs are apparently willing to stream full-length feature films – not just TV shows – on their smartphone, according CCO Ted Sarandos.

Speaking Dec. 6 at Variety’s Dealmaker’s confab, Sarandos touted Netflix’s original feature film Roma as content subscribers would willingly access on their phone.

When questioned about the likelihood someone would actually stream director Alfonso Cuaron’s two-plus hour, black-and-white semi-autobiographical movie on a phone, Sarandos said his 22-year-old son, a film school student, does just that.

“He’s only seen Laurence of Arabia on his phone,” said Sarandos. “He thinks it’s one of the great movies of all time.”

Netflix screened Roma in select theaters exclusively to appease industry awards such as the Golden Globes and Oscars, but Sarandos is well-known for challenging the industry’s 90-day theatrical window, claiming more people would watch movies if offered concurrently via streaming channels.

“Most people see most movies that change their lives at home,” said Sarandos.

Pay-TV Q2 Sub Loss Lowest Since 2014

Pay-TV operators, including cable, satellite and telecom, lost about 800,000 video subscribers in the second quarter – down from 930,000 subs in the previous-year period, according to new data from the Leichtman Research Group.

The losses were offset by ongoing gains in online TV services such as Sling TV, DirecTV Now and Spectrum TV Plus, which totaled 385,000 subs.

Leichtman found that the largest pay-TV providers in the U.S. – representing about 95% of the market – lost about 415,000 net video subs in Q2.

Specifically, satellite operators Dish Network and DirecTV shed 480,000 subs – the largest in any previous quarter.

The top six cable companies lost about 275,000 video subs compared to a loss about 190,000 subs in Q2 2017.

Telecoms lost about 45,000 video subs, compared to a loss of 270,000 subs last year.

The top pay-TV providers now account for about 91.3 million subscribers – with the top six cable companies having 47.4 million video subs, satellite TV services 30.6 million subs, the top telecoms 9.1 million subs.

Online TV services Sling TV and DirecTV Now have 4.2 million combined subs.

“This marked the fewest net losses [among pay-TV operators] in the traditionally weak second quarter since 2014,” Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said in a statement.

Leichtman said the rise in online TV is both a product of consumers opting for more economical services, as well as changes in providers’ strategies.

“This newer segment of the industry has helped to mitigate overall pay-TV losses, while also contributing to a share shift from traditional services,” he said.

Verizon Go90 Shutdown Cost: $1 Billion

NEWS ANALYSIS — Verizon’s short-lived attempt at over-the-top video targeting millennials on wireless devices has a price tag: $997 million.

The telecom July 24 revealed the pre-tax charges in second-quarter (ended June 30) fiscal results, which include $339 million in severance charges.

The oddly named ad-supported mobile-centric video app launched in 2015 with much fanfare and hundreds of millions of dollars invested.

One of the app’s first (and expensive) series was a reality-competition show produced by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, dubbed “The Runner” – which had the misfortune of bowing at the same time of the global Pokémon Go craze.

Go90 did score a creative hit with Kobe Bryant’s Oscar-winning short film Dear Basketball.

The end of Go90 underscores Verizon’s (and exiting CEO Lowell McAdam) failure to create a standalone streaming video platform capable of competing against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu — or even OTT video.

Earlier this year, the telecom folded Go90 into its Oath platform, which includes ’90s relics AOL and Yahoo, in addition to HuffPost, Engadget, Tumblr and TechCrunch.

Indeed, Verizon reported acquisition and integration-related charges of $120 million, primarily related to Oath in Q2.

Separately, Verizon disclosed it lost 37,000 net Fios Video subscribers in Q2, citing ongoing consumer cord-cutting of pay-TV service for competing over-the-top video platforms not named Go90.

The telecom lost 15,000 net Fios Video subs during the previous-year period. Through the first half of the year, Fios Video shed 59,000 net subs compared to 28,000 subs last year.

In total subscribers, however, Fios Video ended Q2 with 4.56 million subs – down 106,000 subs from 4.666 subs last year.

Reflective of consumer adoption of OTT video, Verizon said Fios broadband added 43,000 net subs, down 12.2% from 49,000 broadband sub additions last year. Through the first six months, broadband subs increased nearly 30% (109,000) from 84,000 last year.

Verizon ended the period with 5.959 million broadband connections, up nearly 4% from 5.737 million connections last year.

Perhaps sensing his unexercised stock options, McAdam – who regularly skipped fiscal calls in favor of kowtowing investor events – said Verizon is “extremely well-positioned” for the future.

“Our financial and operating results for the first half of 2018 were strong, as evidenced by service revenue, earnings and operating cash flow growth delivered in a highly competitive marketplace,” he said.

McAdam conveniently ignored Go90’s after-tax impact of about $900 million, or 20 cents per share.

U.S. Pay-TV Revenue to Drop $27B by 2023

Domestic pay-TV revenue is projected to decline $26 billion (26%) to $75 billion from a peak of $101.7 billion in 2015, according to new data from Digital TV Research.

Cable TV revenue will fall to $36.7 billion from a peak of $54.1 billion in 2010 at $54.1 billion. Cable will lose nearly 12 million subscribers, although most of the losses have already taken place.

“Satellite TV and [IPTV/telecom] are also losing subs and revenue,” Simon Murray, principal analyst at Digital TV Research, said in a statement. “Much of this is due to the operators shifting their subscribers to online platforms. However, growth from virtual MVPDs is not expected to make up completely for the subscriber and revenue shortfalls from traditional pay TV.”

The report suggests telecom sub losses are mainly due to AT&T encouraging U-Verse subs to convert to DirecTV. This is the reverse of what has happened in most other countries. Telecom revenue spiked in 2015 at $9.6 billion and will fall to $4.7 billion in 2023. The number of telecom subs topped 12 million in 2014, declining to 6.2 million in 2023.

Satellite TV revenue will decline (16%) from $39.7 billion in 2017 to $33.6 billion in 2023. Satellite TV subs will drop by 4 million from the end of 2017 to 2023 – down 3 million in 2017 alone. Dish is pushing its Sling TV platform, with DirecTV Now also making an impact.

The number of domestic traditional pay TV subs will fall from 100.3 million in 2012 to 80.3 million in 2023. Pay TV penetration will fall from 87.6% of TV households in apex year 2013 to 66.7% in 2023.

Although Canada is losing pay TV subs, its problems are not as severe as the United States. Pay TV penetration reached a highpoint in 2013 at 85.1%. The level will fall to 74.8% by 2023. However, the number of pay TV subs will be 11.2 million by 2023 – about the same as 2017. Pay TV revenue will fall from a peak of $6.8 billion in 2015 to $6 billion by 2023.