Streaming wars are over: What’s next for media

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I am calling it. The Streaming Wars are over. 2019-2023. RIP.

The race between the largest media and leisure corporations so as to add streaming subscribers, figuring out customers will solely pay for a restricted variety of them, is completed. Positive, the contributors are nonetheless working. They’re simply not attempting to win anymore.

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Disney introduced its flagship streaming service, Disney+, misplaced 4 million subscribers in the course of the first three months of the yr, dropping the corporate’s whole streaming subscribers to 157.8 million from 161.8 million. Disney misplaced 4.6 million prospects for its streaming service in India, Disney+ Hotstar. Within the U.S. and Canada, Disney+ misplaced 600,000 subscribers.

It is change into clear the largest media and leisure corporations are working in a world the place vital streaming subscriber development merely is not there anymore – and so they’re content material to not chase it exhausting. Netflix added 1.75 million subscribers in its first quarter, pushing its world whole to 232.5 million. Warner Bros. Discovery added 1.6 million to land at 97.6 million.

The present huge media narrative is all about getting streaming to profitability. Warner Bros. Discovery introduced final week its U.S. direct-to-consumer enterprise turned a revenue of $50 million within the quarter and can stay worthwhile this yr. Netflix’s streaming enterprise turned worthwhile in the course of the pandemic. Disney on Wednesday introduced streaming losses narrowed to $659 million from $887 million.

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Netflix has curbed its content material spending development, and Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney have each introduced 1000’s of job eliminations and billions of {dollars} in content material spending cuts in latest months. Disney will “produce decrease volumes of content material” shifting ahead, Chief Monetary Officer Christine McCarthy mentioned throughout Wednesday’s earnings convention name, although Chief Govt Bob Iger famous he did not assume it might have an effect on world subscriber development.

There’s nonetheless some development among the many smaller gamers. NBCUniversal’s Peacock gained 2 million subscribers final quarter, giving it 22 million subscribers. Paramount International added 4.1 million subscribers within the quarter, placing it at 60 million subscribers.

However the important thing query is not trying on the development numbers as a lot because it’s concerning the investor response to the expansion numbers. Paramount International fell 28% in a day final week after the corporate introduced it was chopping its dividend from 25 cents a share to five cents a share to save lots of money.

Disney+ Hotstar subscribers introduced in a paltry 59 cents per thirty days of income final quarter, down from 74 cents final quarter. It seems Disney is OK with shedding these low-paying prospects. Disney gave up its Indian Premier League cricket streaming rights final yr. These rights have been acquired for $2.6 billion by Paramount International.

Disney additionally introduced it is elevating the value of its ad-free Disney+ service later this yr. Disney’s common income per consumer for U.S. and Canadian subscribers rose 20% in the latest quarter after one more value improve was introduced final yr. Huge value hikes usually aren’t the technique executives use if the precedence is including subscribers.

What’s subsequent?

Elevating costs and chopping prices is not a terrific development technique. Streaming was a development technique. Possibly it can come again a bit with cheaper promoting tiers and Netflix’s impending password sharing crackdown.

However it’s extremely unlikely development will ever return to the degrees seen in the course of the pandemic and the early years of mass streaming.

That most likely means the media and leisure indudstry will want a brand new development story quickly.

The obvious candidate is gaming. Netflix has began a fledgling online game service. Comcast thought-about shopping for EA final yr, as first reported by Puck. Microsoft’s deal for Activision is now in jeopardy after UK regulators blocked the transaction. If that acquisition fails, Activision might instantly be a goal for legacy media corporations as they search for a extra thrilling story to inform buyers.

Whereas Disney shut down its metaverse division as a part of its latest value cuts, marrying its mental property with gaming looks like an apparent match. One can simply envision the expansion potential of Disney shopping for one thing like Epic Video games, which owns Fortnite, and constructing its model of an interactive universe by way of gaming.

Extra consolidation will occur – ultimately – amongst legacy media corporations. However one main gaming acquisition might begin a run within the business.

Maybe The Gaming Wars is the subsequent chapter.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the mum or dad firm of Peacock and CNBC.

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