With the Thanksgiving weekend slowly fading into the distance, and the usual furor over Black Friday and Cyber Monday tamped down by the supply chain shortage, we’ve seen plenty of streamers try to boost those sluggish Q3 subscription numbers with tempting digital deals instead. Will this be what they need to reenergize the domestic subscription numbers, or is it another flash in the pan? Brandon Blake, entertainment lawyer and industry expert, looks at the data for us.
Major subscription push
This year we saw Paramount+, Discovery+, Peacock, and Hulu all set themselves to steep discounts in the hope of attracting new eyes. Hulu has opted for a deeply gouged 99 cents a month deal, its deepest discount since 2018. Disney has been blatant in courting new subscribers, a keen indicator of how important strong streaming growth is to its new business model. And, of course, how sluggish their last quarter subscription results really were.
Disney opted to pitch the Hulu deal through ABC’s Good Morning America slot. NBCUniversal took to the Today show to advertise its deal for Peacock, offering a 50% discount on Peacock Premium for half a year. Peacock is widely speculated to have subscriber numbers for its premium tier rank under double-digit millions, leaving it very vulnerable indeed. Paramount+, on the other hand, is offering one month free for its premium plan, heavily leaning into their live sporting coverage for appeal. Intriguingly, despite a sales deal on the table, we also see Starz offering six months at under half-price. Discovery opted for a 99 cent package for three months, while AMC is up at $1.99 (instead of $8.99) monthly for a full year.
Courting Netflix-levels of dominance
It’s no secret at this point in the streaming wars that the only subscription widely seen as essential in a household is Netflix, riding the wave of their early streaming dominance. While Disney+ is chasing its heels, for everyone else, the landscape is fractured and market share is not easy to come by.
Steep discounts of the type we’ve seen offered don’t come cheap to a company’s bottom line. Yes, advertising can do a lot to offset that- Hulu is well known to have an average revenue per user topping $12, despite most users paying for the base plan only. Yet a realistic streaming future will see people jettison surplus subscriptions and streamline, not add more and more new services to their bouquet. And where subscriptions drop, advertising drops too.
Current market data suggests consumers are in a phase of subscription hopping. Partially powered by curiosity, partially powered by the hunt for specific programs. While the VOD market for the end of 2021 is widely predicted to be strong, subscription growth may remain in a slump. And while we see other services quibble for a discounted share of the market, Netflix still sits supreme, offering no discount or free trial, with all proceeds accruing to its profit margin.
Will the gamble to restart stalled subscription numbers through capitalizing on the ‘sales season’ pay off? Or will this be the start of the predicted end for some of the smaller streaming services? We will only know for sure once we see Q4 data for the streamers that have jumped on the Black Friday hype train. Until then, it’s a phenomenon Blake & Wang P.A will be keeping a careful eye on.