State of the Streamers: July 2020

How do the digital giants stack up against each other right now?

2020 continues to be a banner year for streaming platforms. Quibi, HBO Max, and NBC’s Peacock have all launched. Films like The King of Staten Island have opted for successful digital-only releases. And COVID-19, of course, has drastically increased the amount of time that people are spending indoors. But… who’s coming out on top?

Netflix: Gaining Customers, Losing Value

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Good news: The Streaming King announced that it added 10 M subscribers in 2Q 2020 for a grand total of 193 M global subs. That’s the largest number of any streamer.

Bad news: The company’s financial results didn’t excite Wall Street. Despite a huge number of new customers, they missed expectations on profit and announced a forecast of only 2.5 M new subscribers in 3Q. Their stock fell nearly 10%.

HBO Max: Keeping it Confusing

HBO has an identity crisis. They have a premium cable channel called… HBO. There’s also HBO Now: a digital only offering for cord-cutters who still want HBO. There’s also HBO Go, which is the digital version of HBO… but isn’t HBO Now. WHAT?

It’s a branding mess. HBO Max can be the solution: an inclusive platform with all the WarnerMedia content our hearts desire.

The company is having trouble getting all of their users on the same page. There are somewhere around 140 M global HBO customers spread across their confusing array of services. Data even reveals that some HBO Now subscribers aren’t switching to HBO Max for free.

AT&T — the parent company of HBO — has their earnings call on July 23rd. We’ll know more then.

Disney+: Slow & Steady

Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

Disney’s burgeoning service made a splash this month by releasing a recording of the hit musical Hamilton. There are more big name releases coming, including X-Men films and the second season of The Mandalorian in October.

Disney+ is in an enviable position. The young streamer has surpassed expectations with ~34 M subscribers in less than a year of operation. Even better: there’s no rush. Parent company Disney has deep pockets and a long-term strategy. They own Hulu, FOX, ABC, ESPN, and a laundry list of other assets including film studios, amusement parks, and almost anything else you can imagine. Disney+ may be the future of their D2C business, but it doesn’t need to be a money-maker in the near future.

NBC Peacock: Hoping for a Hot Start

Peacock Logo from Engadget

NBCUniversal launched their flagship digital platform, Peacock, on July 15th. The platform has NBC classics like 30 Rock along with new originals like Brave New World. There’s also an extensive list of films, non-native TV series, and children’s programming. Frankly, the offering out of the gate is impressive.

NBC Peacock’s differentiation from other services is pricing. Peacock is free. There’s a sizable library available to watch… with ads, of course. Upgrading to “Peacock Premium” for $5/mo unlocks a larger library, includes live sports, and still has ads. The “Peacock Premium Plus” level includes the same access and removes all ads for $10/mo.

Tiered memberships aren’t a new idea. Other streamers, including Quibi, have similar plans available. Including a free option along with the paid tiers, however, is a novel approach. Will users choose to shell out the cash when so much content is free?

All streamers are facing similar challenges arising from COVID-19. Most productions remain shut down. Economic uncertainty looms. The competition for viewers’ attention, though, is fiercer than ever. The content war rages on and we get to reap the benefits.

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