i3 | May 28, 2020

On-Demand Escapism

Brian Comiskey

With social distancing becoming the new norm in American daily life, video streaming services are poised to capture our growing undivided attention.

The latest released figures from streaming service providers show companies closed out 2019 and entered 2020 at subscription rates higher than Wall Street’s projections. For example, Disney+ had amassed 28.3 million subscribers since launching in November 2019, Hulu had reached 30.4 million subscribers for both its on demand and live offerings, and Netflix had accumulated 60 million U.S. subscribers. All of them exceeded their projections.

CTA estimates that the video streaming market will reach about $24.1 billion in revenue in 2020, representing a 29% increase from 2019. Within this, subscription video on demand (SVOD) services are forecasted to reach $14.2 billion in 2020, while “over-the-top” (OTT) or live multichannel streaming platform will hit just above $6.3 billion in revenue this year.

Curb Our Enthusiasm?

However, downward market pressures may be on the horizon for video streaming services as the grim financial and social realities of this pandemic cement themselves over the course of the year. First, as Americans begin tightening their belts, video streaming services could be cut as households look to remove non-essential costs in their budget.

The postponement and outright cancellation of major sporting events also could negatively impact live TV streaming platforms like Hulu Live and FuboTV that have made live sports central to their pitch in content strategy. Meanwhile, the suspension of production for most new shows and movies will also lead to delays in the content releases that often retains subscribers and captures new viewers.

CTA estimates that the video streaming market will reach about $24.1 billion in revenue in 2020, representing a 29% increase from 2019.

Regulatory constraints also present a possible roadblock in the growth of streaming markets during the coronavirus outbreak. YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix have all agreed to reduce streaming quality in Europe to prevent broadband outages amid increased internet usage across the continent. Disney+ has postponed its launch in France as part of an effort to curb broadband pressures from streaming. The introduction of similar measures or even more stringent regulations on streaming service usage stateside could further turn subscribers away from these services.

Ensuring Content is not Frozen

Fortunately, streaming service providers have demonstrated an ability to adapt to these emerging challenges. On the content perspective, SVOD platforms are offering individual purchase access to recent theatrical releases such as the Invisible Man and Emma on Prime or, in the case of Disney+, opening the vault earlier for their own films like Frozen 2 and Onward to cement themselves as the family option when isolating with children.

Newer services entering the fray can lean on their catalog of proven streaming juggernauts like Peacock, with Friends, or bring an oasis of unreleased shows, like Quibi.

Beyond the shifts in content release schedules and marketing tactics, streaming services have adapted their pricing strategies to capture wider audiences. Disney+ and Hulu have capitalized on bundle offers and lower price tiers to establish themselves as lower budget streaming options. Niche services like Shudder, Sundance Now, and Acorn TV are extending their free trials for consumers.

Ultimately, the uncertainty over the longevity of this pandemic may present challenges for the streaming market. However, with the hasty content shifts and marketing strategies enacted by platforms already, the escapism offered by video streaming may buoy this market in the near term.

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