In the week that sees the launch of the final series of Game Of Thrones, streaming giants Netflix and Disney’s impending real word clash inevitably puts top series viewing figures into the shade, and is at the heart of the battle for global audience domination.
Netflix will have passed the 150 million global subscriber mark in its latest results (w/c 15 April), as new releases such as the comedy Sex Education and grittier fare, including Marvel’s The Punisher, lure viewers to sign up. Its results show just under 9 million new paying subscribers in the first-quarter, taking its global paid base to a sizeable 148 million (excluding Netflix’s approx. 8 million subscribers on 30-day free trials).
The company is expected to post a healthy increase in revenues – up by as much as a fifth – on the back of the subscriber increases, fuelled by growth in international markets. About 80% of new subscribers come from markets outside the US.
Wall Street will be closely watching whether new customer numbers have been affected by a price rise, announced for the US market in January. The extra cash generated from the price increase, which is expected to be rolled out to mature markets such as Europe at some point, will help fund Netflix’s ever-increasing programme-making and licensing budget.
Netflix does not have the market all to itself…
In a huge effort to shore up the high ground, Netflix is set to spend as much as $15bn this year as it gears up for a costly battle. Given the rapid digitisation of the global media industry, Netflix and Disney will increasingly focus on the rising threats of Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Google.
Disney recently announced further details of its new service, Disney+, which will launch in the US in November, backed by content including Star Wars, the Marvel superhero universe and Pixar, home to Finding Nemo and Toy Story.
Disney is to price its new streaming service at just $6.99 a month, or $70 annually: the pricing is a little lower than what most analysts predicted, and is much less than Netflix’s standard $12.99 plan in the US.
The new service, Disney+, will showcase new and classic TV shows and films. It will be ad-free, will feature programming from the Marvel superhero franchise, Star Wars, Pixar, National Geographic and every episode of the Simpsons.
Currently the incumbents are running ad-free services. Will this always be the case? As the market expands, demands on viewers’ wallets will have a significant bearing on the competing revenue models.
To date linear TV viewing patterns in the UK are proving remarkably robust in the face of increased competition; but as this changes the leading broadcasters will need to adapt, and quickly. The move to box sets on their players shows exactly the right intent: among the terrestrial commercial companies All4 has taken an impressive lead. But as a collective, the sector will need to make far greater strides if it is to continue to enjoy the fruits from the seasons ahead.