I’m pleased to present the 511th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. We wish all of our listeners good health and hope everyone is staying safe.
Earlier this week, Netflix reported an unexpectedly large gain in global subscribers for Q1 ’20, which management attributed to the shelter-at-home situation. On today’s podcast Colin and I discuss how Netflix has uniquely benefited from shifting viewership and also how it will continue to do so in Q2 and likely during the second half of the year.
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Netflix demonstrated what a huge beneficiary of shelter-in-place the company has become, reporting 15.8 million net subscriber additions globally for Q1 ’20. The number was over twice as large as the 7 million that Netflix had forecast for its Q1 gain back in January. Netflix was well ahead of forecast in all 4 of its geographic regions and now has 183 million global subscribers, cementing its position as the largest SVOD service by far.
The region that is most intriguing to me is the U.S. plus Canada region (“UCAN”), where, back in January, I thought there was a 50-50 chance Netflix could actually lose subscribers in Q1, for the first time. That was based on Netflix’s global forecast and looking at recent growth trends in the other 3 regions. Instead, Netflix added 2.31 million subscribers in Q1 ’20, up from 1.88 million in Q1 ’19.
The world has completely changed due to the virus. There are countless examples of this across every industry. In streaming video, one clear example is that Netflix will likely swing from a 50-50 chance of losing subscribers in its UCAN (U.S. plus Canada) segment in Q1 ’20 to gaining subscribers in the period when it reports next Tuesday. One data source that's leading me to change my view is Antenna, a business intelligence startup that has been tracking underlying purchase data on SVOD providers, yielding insights on their subscriber additions and churn rates.
Just to step back for a moment, following Netflix’s Q4 ’19 earnings release that included its Q1 ’20 forecast, some basic calculations I did suggested that Netflix itself was preparing for a loss in UCAN subscribers in Q1 ’20. The company was forecasting global net subscriber additions of 7 million in Q1 ’20, down from 9.6 million in Q1 ’19. In addition to a trending slowdown in 2019, Netflix seemed to also be expecting an adverse impact from the Disney+ launch in Nov. ‘ 19.
I’m pleased to present the 508th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. We hope all of our listeners are staying well and we urge everyone to take all precautions possible.
In this week’s podcast, we focus on how the virus and stay at home guidelines are continuing to change viewership and monetization. First up we review Conviva data that shows a huge uptick in daytime viewing. Colin shares Nielsen data that Netflix recently accounted for 29% of video streaming on TVs and 9 out of the top 10 most viewed streaming shows.
Colin likes Sling TV's “Stay in & SLING” initiative, which seems like a smart on-ramp to get viewers engaged with free VOD content. HBO’s decision to make 500 hours of its classic TV programs and Warner Bros. movies available for free is in line with this thinking and a great promotion for HBO Max. We agree that Quibi could also benefit from a free tier of content, beyond the 90-day trial it is offering at launch.
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VideoNuze readers will recall that several months ago I made a prediction that Netflix would launch a lower cost (around $5-$7 per month) ad-supported tier in 2020. I predicted this despite Netflix management having steadfastly resisted the model, because I believed the logic was just so compelling and straightforward that no “religious” argument to the contrary would preclude it.
However, a month after posting, on Netflix’s Q4 ’19 earnings call, management once again rejected the idea. In my and other analysts’ view, Netflix offered what seemed to amount to a “we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time” argument that focused on its perceived inability to compete effectively with the ad triopoly of Google, Facebook and Amazon. Despite CTV ad dollars being scooped up by the likes of Hulu, CBS All Access and other premium video providers, Netflix somehow concluded it simply couldn’t play.
With the coronavirus upending life and prompting a surge in stay-at-home viewing, I’d like to suggest 6 reasons why now would be the absolute perfect time for Netflix to announce a lower priced ($5-$7 per month) ad-supported tier (note to readers: feel free to let me know if I’m missing something colossally obvious that would negate my assertion).
With people spending more time at home due to the virus, there has been a ton of speculation around what impact this will have on streaming consumption. For example, based on prior disruptive incidents, Nielsen estimates viewing could increase 61%. WURL released data that it saw 7%-44% regional increases on its platform last weekend. A message I received yesterday from SpotX said its experienced a 16% increase in video ad inventory across their entire global marketplace. So the data suggests increases, the range of them is pretty wide.
A sub-question within the “streaming is surging” speculation is how it affects AVOD vs. SVOD services. Even before the virus the dynamics in both categories were fluid. AVOD services are benefiting from multiple tailwinds: cord-cutting, CTV-based viewing, targeting, content proliferation, etc. SVOD services were proliferating, with new competitors like Disney+, Apple TV+, Peacock and soon HBO Max (Quibi could be included too, although its mobile-only). From my perspective, the new competition made incumbents like Netflix look vulnerable. I calculated there was a decent chance Netflix would actually lose subscribers in its US/Canada region in Q1, which would be unprecedented.
Finally, finally, finally, Google provided some transparency about YouTube’s financial condition, in its Q4 ’19 and full year 2019 earnings report yesterday. YouTube’s financials have been treated as a state secret by Google since the beginning of time, with only high level usage information periodically shared.
Even yesterday’s reveal was only for YT’s advertising revenue, which came in at $4.7 billion for Q4 ’19 and $15.1 billion for the year. YT’s subscription revenues - which consist of YT Music, YT Premium includes YT Music) and YT TV (its virtual pay-TV service) - were buried in “Google other revenue.” On the earnings call, CEO Sundar Pichai said all YT subscriptions had a $3 billion annual run rate at the end of 2019.
Using some conservative assumptions and relatively quick math, it’s clear that YT’s total revenue could exceed $25 billion in 2020. As I also detail below, YT has to be considered among the best acquisitions in corporate America’s history. For Google, only the acquisition of Android (for the measly price of $50 million) could be considered more successful.
Here are my calculations:
I’m pleased to present the 498th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast, we do a deep dive into Netflix’s Q4 ’19 results (reported earlier this week), and what they imply for 2020. Colin mostly focuses his comments on the decelerating growth rate in international subscriber additions and the ARPU squeeze that’s coming this year.
My focus is on the all-important domestic or “UCAN” (U.S. + Canada) region. Based solely on Netflix’s prior results and its own Q1 ’20 global subscriber addition forecast of 7 million, I think there’s at least a 50-50 chance Netflix will lose subscribers in UCAN in Q1 ’20. Just two years ago, this would have been an unimaginable thing to say; remember in Q1 ’18 it gained 2.28 million U.S. subscribers and in Q1 ’19 it gained 1.74 million.
That’s all before talking about Q2 ’20 where it will almost certainly lose UCAN subscribers, at a multiple of the 130K it lost in Q2 ’19, given the new competitive landscape. Netflix really needs to launch a lower-priced ad-supported tier, but yet again Netflix management rejected the idea, this time for inexplicable reasons.
Add it all up and Netflix is in for a bumpy ride in 2020. Meanwhile, since announcing its results on Tuesday after the market’s close, Netflix stock is up over $30 (about 10%, or around $15 billion extra market capitalization), once again proving that speculators simply can’t quit the stock regardless of the company’s actual performance or prospects.
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Netflix reported its Q4 ’19 and full year results yesterday, exposing the cold hard reality it is facing in the U.S. While the company gained 8.8 million subscribers globally (ahead of its 7.6 million forecast), it gained just 420K in the U.S. specifically (compared to 600K forecast). To put the 420K into more context, it’s by far the lowest Q4 US sub add since Q4 ’11 following the Qwikster debacle. It’s the first time since then that U.S. sub additions have fallen below 1 million in the seasonally strong Q4. And it’s down a whopping 79% vs. just 2 years ago, in Q4 ’17 when Netflix added 1.98 million U.S. subscribers.
Now some will say the “law of large numbers” is catching up with Netflix and that’s true to an extent; it’s a lot harder to add a million subscribers off a base of 60 million than it is off a base of 20 million. But this explanation just scratches the surface of what’s happening now at Netflix.
There was nothing surprising when I read last week’s coverage of FX CEO John Landgraf’s tally of original productions in 2019. According to Landgraf, the number of original dramas, comedies and limited series across all SVOD and TV networks in the U.S. reached a new high of 532 (approximately what he previously predicted). That was up from 495 in 2018, 487 in 2017 and just 182 in the pre-SVOD days of 2002.
This dynamic, which Landgraf has dubbed “Peak TV,” is leading many, if not most, ad-supported entertainment-oriented cable TV networks onto a road to nowhere if their goal is to remain ad-supported entertainment-oriented cable TV networks in the long-term. What is far more likely is that being this type of network will become unviable and so they’ll morph into studios that provide premium original and library content, mostly for bigger platforms (e.g. Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Hulu, etc.) and sometimes for their parent companies’ direct-to-consumer OTT services.
I’m pleased to present the 495th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
In today’s podcast, our final one for 2019, Colin and I share our top 10 video stories of the year. Whether you agree or disagree with our top 10 (or the ordering), no doubt we can all agree it’s been quite an eventful year for the industry. But as busy as 2019 has been, 2020 is setting up to be a year of even more innovation and change.
As always, Colin and I have had a ton of fun discussing all of the industry’s happenings each week, and we hope you enjoyed following along throughout the year.
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A question that has been following Netflix since the beginning of time is whether the SVOD giant would ever include advertising. Netflix management has consistently responded “no” and emphasized that their viewers expect an ad-free experience. Saying this so many times has created the perception that Netflix’s opposition to advertising is “religious” (i.e. so core to its brand/strategy/user experience that deviation simply isn’t possible) that no logic to the contrary will prevail.
But looking ahead to the new decade and the vastly different industry dynamics that are unfolding, I think there are many reasons why religion is finally going to give way to business imperatives. For anyone already saying, “no, no I just don’t believe Netflix could undergo such a conversion,” keep in mind the intense objection Steve Jobs had to subscription music. Then came Spotify’s incredible growth and in 2015, Apple Music was launched (note, Tim Cook took over as CEO in 2011, just prior to Jobs's death).
I’m pleased to present the 487th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Netflix reported its Q3 ’19 results this week, the last quarter before the onslaught of new SVOD competition begins from Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max and Peacock, among others.
In this week’s podcast Colin and I discuss the Q3 results, which were strong internationally and decent in the U.S. (better than Q2 ’19, but still well down from Q2 ’18 and below Netflix’s own forecast). But we focus mainly on where things go from here.
We agree that the days of Netflix’s robust U.S. growth are almost certainly over. But we also think Netflix’s content remains highly competitive and international could continue expanding strongly in the short-term, depending on how quickly Disney+ rolls out to other geographies. In short, there is a lot of uncertainty given all the new choices coming to market.
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Netflix investors breathed a sigh of relief after yesterday’s Q3 '19 earnings report. The company missed its subscriber forecast of 7 million subscriber addition, but only narrowly by a few hundred thousand. Netflix added 500K subscribers in the U.S. vs. its 800K forecast. That was a far better performance than Q2 when it lost 130K subscribers in the U.S. Internationally Netflix gained 6.3 million subscribers, basically in line with the 6.2 million it forecast.
The U.S. miss was blamed mainly on an elevated churn rate that Netflix said hasn’t normalized since rate increases went into effect earlier this year. The good news is the higher rates translated into 16.5% increase in average revenue per unit in Q3.
Last week, the WSJ ran two articles that underscore how Disney is navigating new terrain as it prepares to launch Disney+ in November. The articles also showcase how convoluted relationships among major media and technology companies are going to become over fights for shifting leverage.
One article described how Disney has continued to ban advertising from Netflix on its entertainment TV networks (ESPN is still ok) even though it will accept ads from other SVOD providers. The other article described Disney’s negotiations with Amazon over how much ad inventory Amazon should be allocated to sell in Disney’s apps that run on Fire TV. The article noted no deal at all has been reached for Disney+ to be carried on Fire TV, as the SVOD service’s launch date nears.
I’m pleased to present the 475th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Was Netflix’s Q2 ’19 subscriber slowdown a short-term blip or the start of a long-term trend? This is the question Colin and I dig into on this week’s podcast.
This week Netflix reported its first-ever domestic streaming subscriber loss, dropping 130K paid subscribers to end the quarter with 60.1 million paid subscribers. The loss compared with a forecasted gain of 300K and a gain of 870K a year ago in Q2 ’18. And internationally, Netflix gained 2.83 million paid subscribers to end the quarter with 91.5 million subscribers, compared with a forecasted gain of 4.7 million and a gain of 4.6 million a year ago in Q2 ’18. So all in, Netflix’s global subscriber gain dropped roughly in half, from 5.45 million in Q2 ’18 to 2.7 million in Q2 ’19.
Netflix blamed a weak Q2 content slate and to a lesser extent price increases in the U.S. and expects Q3 to return to typical growth. But Colin and I note new SVOD dynamics ahead that could scramble things such as the loss of key content like “Friends” and “The Office,” strong entrants like Disney+ and HBO Max. It’s hard to tell how it all shakes out just yet.
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It’s been just 6 1/2 years since Netflix debuted its breakout original series “House of Cards” and new research from MoffettNathanson and HarrisX show just how much progress the company has made since: 15 out of the top 19 most popular TV shows are now original, with the remaining 4 acquired (the research credits “movies” as the 3rd most popular).
The most popular show is “Orange is the New Black” followed by “Stranger Things.” #4 is "Ozak" and #5 "Grace and Frankie." Of the acquired shows, “The Office” (which is moving to NBCU’s streaming service) is #9, while “Friends” (which is moving to WarnerMedia’s streaming service) is #10. “Supernatural” (#12) and “Breaking Bad” (#20) are the only other acquired shows in the top 20. Somewhat surprisingly, originals accounted for 13 of the top 19 shows on Amazon Prime Video (movies were #6). For Hulu, just 5 of its top 19 were original, with the majority of acquired shows coming from Disney/Fox (movies were #10).
I’m pleased to present the 463rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
The SVOD industry’s dynamics are harder than ever to predict now that Disney+ plans to come to market with a robust content offering priced at just $7 per month. So for example while Netflix reported a strong Q1 ’19, when Colin looks ahead to how Q4 ’19 or Q1 ’20 will shape up for Netflix given omnipresent promotion of Disney+ that’s coming, he sees an adverse impact on domestic subscriber additions.
We discuss how significant the impact could be not just on Netflix but also on Apple TV+ which will come to market in late ’19 too, but have a much less competitive content offering vs. Disney+. A key question is how low must Apple TV+’s price now be to compete?
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I’m pleased to present the 458th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Earlier this week, DirecTV Now changed its packaging and pricing by introducing 2 new tiers, DirecTV Now Plus and DirecTV Now Max. They are both anchored by HBO, but also lose popular networks from Viacom, Discovery and AMC.
On today’s podcast Colin and I discuss the likely rationale behind the changes and what impact they’ll have. One thing seems clear: given the spectrum of TV networks they carry, Hulu Live TV and YouTube TV are poised to become leaders in the virtual pay-TV industry.
Next, Colin updates us on several statements a Netflix executive made earlier this week that he believes need further clarity. Colin delights in “keeping them honest” and his watchdog role benefits all of us trying to understand industry data.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 30 seconds)
Large corporations’ priorities are testing creative freedom as more shows than ever compete for attention in the “Peak TV” era and video becomes a critical C-level focus. Exhibit A is Apple, which according to a report yesterday from the NY Post, is vexing creators with an abundance of suggestions (or “notes” in industry parlance) on their shows. The notes, which apparently include some from CEO Tim Cook himself, tend to emphasize Apple’s desire to keep shows “family friendly.”
The goal makes perfect sense; nothing is more important to Apple than its brand image. The prospect of seeing an “Apple Original” icon in the opening credits, followed by an opening scene including profanity, violence or nudity, would be a jarring juxtaposition. Yet this is the “Peak TV” world we now live in; with so many shows competing for viewers’ time, those that are most original and creative, and yes, often include attention-grabbing early scenes, stand out (for a point of reference recall that in the first minutes of Netflix’s “House of Cards” pilot, Kevin Spacey’s character puts a wounded dog out of its misery with his own hands).