Welcome to the 553rd edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On today’s podcast Colin and I explore whether Netflix should pursue a crackdown on subscribers sharing their passwords (as it’s doing in a trial) or if it should consider launching a lower-priced, advertising support tier, or if it should do both.
Earlier this week Colin shared thoughts about the potential consequences of policing passwords and I wrote about the benefits of offering subscribers more pricing flexibility as other streaming services do already. On today’s podcast we dig deeper into both of these approaches and agree an action plan will become more urgent if there’s a fall in U.S. subscribers in the first or second quarter this year.
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Click here to listen to the podcast (25 minutes, 18 seconds)
Back in December, 2019, before the pandemic upended everything, I speculated that Netflix would launch an ad-supported tier in 2020. Subscriber growth in the U.S. was slowing in 2019 and there was reason to believe that in Q1 ’20 Netflix might lose subscribers in its UCAN (U.S. + Canada) region.
A lower-priced ad-supported tier would have multiple benefits: reducing churn, revenue growth/diversification by tapping into the white hot connected TV ad market, a way to compete with new lower-priced streaming entrants, new growth story for investors, etc. The key challenge was that Netflix had for years said it had no interest in an ad-supported tier; it wanted to stick to its ad-free brand identity and user experience.
Welcome to the 550th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
ViacomCBS shared more content and pricing details for Paramount+ this week, ahead of its March 4th launch. Colin and I agree that from a content perspective, it’s an “everything but the kitchen sink” strategy, with a strong lineup of 30K+ TV episodes and 2,500 movies, plus sports, kids and originals. ViacomCBS repeatedly referred to the Paramount+ approach as a “mountain of entertainment.”
Paramount+ is also priced aggressively, at $4.99 per month with ads and $9.99 per month without ads. That’s slightly less than Hulu’s comparable tiers and equal to Peacock’s pricing. Colin and I are interested to see what the Paramount+ ad load looks like compared to Hulu and Peacock.
We also discuss Netflix’s new Downloads For You feature, announced earlier this week. Colin has given it a spin and while we agree the feature is a valuable, it is diminished by the content that is recommended, which didn’t match Colin’s tastes.
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Netflix has introduced “Downloads For You,” a clever feature that automatically downloads recommended TV shows and movies to users’ mobile devices. For now the feature is available on Android devices globally, with iOS devices being tested soon (I’m an iOS user so I haven’t been able to try it out yet). Netflix users opt in to Downloads For You and then choose how much space they want to allocate on their device for recommended downloads - 1GB, 3GB or 5GB.
Welcome to the 545th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
AVOD services are growing strongly, yet linear TV still accounts for 90% of video ad spending. This week Colin and I discuss a new report from Tubi that details how advertisers can now only reach a sizable share of younger audiences by shifting more spending to AVOD. With AVOD services poised to grow even further in ’21, advertisers will be pressed to reevaluate their spending decisions.
Meanwhile, it’s not just AVOD that’s growing, it’s SVOD too, as Netflix’s Q4 and full year earnings report underscored. Netflix added nearly 37 million subscribers, with international making the biggest contribution. We dig into the highlights of the report, including analysis of differences in Netflix’s results by region.
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Netflix reported its Q4 and full year results late yesterday, ending 2020 with 203.7 million global subscribers. For the full year Netflix gained 36.6 million subscribers, expanding its base by nearly 22%. Approximately 43% of the year’s gain, or 15.8 million subscribers, came in Q1, as Covid-related sign-ups surged in the last few weeks of the quarter.
In Q4, Netflix added 8.5 million subscribers, beating its forecast of 6 million additions. EMEA was the biggest contributor in the quarter, up 4.5 million subscribers, or about 53% of total. EMEA is Netflix’s second-biggest region, with 66.7 million subscribers, or 32.7% of total. The UCAN region (U.S. plus Canada) remains the biggest region by subscribers and average revenue per subscriber. UCAN accounted for 73.9 million subscribers at year end, or about 36.3% of total. However, UCAN grew by just 860K subscribers in Q4, the lowest of the four regions.
2020 was a strong year for streaming across the board, but newly released Nielsen data reveals some of the biggest winners. At the top of the list was “The Office,” which racked up the most viewership of any TV show, with 57.1 billion minutes streamed for its 192 episodes on Netflix.
Along with “The Office,” 6 of the top 7 streamed shows in 2020 were licensed content (and all were on Netflix). The only original show in the top 7 was “Ozark” with 30.4 billion minutes streamed. Ahead of it were “Grey’s Anatomy” (39.4 billion minutes) and “Criminal Minds” (35.4 billion minutes) and just behind it were “NCIS” (28.1 billion minutes), “Schitt’s Creek” (23.8 billion minutes) and “Supernatural” (20.3 billion minutes).
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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Click here to listen to the podcast (23 minutes, 13 seconds)
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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Click here to listen to the podcast (26 minutes, 59 seconds)
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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Click here to listen to the podcast (24 minutes, 39 seconds)