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How Did Streaming Do in 2021?


Much like 2020, the ongoing pandemic helped make 2021 another banner year for streaming services. However, that doesn’t mean it was all sunny skies and boundless revenue growth. For some of the biggest names in the streaming world, there is evidence that domestic growth has begun to level out, and companies are looking for new strategies to give those new subscriber numbers a much-needed boost.


Below we answer some of your burning questions (that you may not even realize you had!) about the state of streaming in the previous year.


Who Rebranded in 2021 (And Did it Help Them)?


Pop quiz: What did Paramount+ used to be known as?


If you thought the answer was CBS All Access, you’d be right, but don’t worry if you didn't have any idea what the answer was. That’s actually why they rebranded; they thought Paramount had more brand recognition — and they were right. Since consolidating all of ViacomCBS’s portfolio (which includes Pluto TV and Showtime’s OTT service, as well as smaller offerings like BET+) under the rebranded platform, their global subscriber share has grown considerably.


According to data from Adweek, in Q3 of 2020, ViacomCBS reported 17.9 million total streaming subscribers. By Q3 2021 (the most recently released numbers), their global subscribers have grown to nearing 47 million. That’s an increase of 262% year over year. One would think re-introducing a mostly-existing service to customers wouldn’t make such a large difference, but in this case, a marketing makeover was exactly what was needed.


Who's Coming for Netflix's Champion Belt?


Everyone knows Netflix is the apex predator of the streaming service world. At the end of Q3 2021, Netflix had nearly 214 million global subscribers (compared to the 195 million it had in the third quarter of 2020). Believe it or not, this number actually represents a slowdown in growth for the streamer. In fact, Netflix is even looking at supporting business ventures such as ecommerce, merchandising opportunities and video games to ensure revenue growth continues at a steady clip.


Netflix has another reason to be concerned, though, and that reason has mouse ears and a massive media empire. Disney — with its three streaming services, Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ — is quickly eating up the space between its subscriber numbers and Netflix’s. As of Q3 2021, Disney+ had 118.1 million subscribers, Hulu had 43.8 million and ESPN+ had 17.1 million. That means that in total, Disney has about 174 million subscribers across its platforms, an increase of over 50 million compared to the 120.6 million total subs Disney reported in Q3 2020.


If both Netflix and Disney continue growing at their current pace, Disney could overtake Netflix in total subscribers in a few years. While they’re busy squaring off, we may even see a new player enter the race. In 2022 a new company, Warner Bros. Discovery, is expected to be unveiled. This platform, which brings HBO Max and Discovery together under one roof, will allow the companies to grow their subscriber base even more.


What's Going on With Peacock?


While some companies are announcing their new subscriber numbers proudly from the rooftops, others have stayed mum on the subject. One such streamer happens to be Peacock. With the Summer Olympics happening in Q3 of 2021, you’d think NBCUniversal would be eager to share how the Games supercharged their user numbers. Yet, they’ve failed to report their Q3 numbers.


Even prior to the Olympics, the company was careful about how it talked about Peacock’s growth, only reporting sign-ups. In Q2 of 2021, for instance, NBCUniversal announced it had 54 million users, which doesn’t give you any insight into the number of paid subscriptions for the Premium tier, or even free returning viewers.


If there’s any indication that the Summer Olympics didn’t boost Peacock’s subscriber base significantly, it’s how differently they’re handling the upcoming Winter Olympics. NBCUniversal plans to stream every event on Peacock’s Premium tier this time around, so maybe later this year, Peacock will have something positive to report.


Let Us Weigh the Numbers


There are hundreds of streaming services out there you can advertise on. While you’re obligated to go where the people go, the streaming industry is constantly in flux, and you don’t need to parse through all of these numbers alone. Our media planners and buyers at The Ward Group are always here to help you navigate the online ad buying process, all while keeping a watchful eye on your media budget. If you’re ready to start streaming your ads, contact us today!

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