Netflix’s US business provides an insight into the patterns of the subscriber take-up of a maturing streaming service, trends that the comparatively nascent international markets may yet have ahead

Through analysis of the relationship between Netflix’s churn, subscriber additions, marketing spend and content release schedule, a clearer view of the rhythms of the streaming business become apparent

Rising churn, and correlation—such as the emphasis on returning original series during the year’s turbulent second quarter—gives guidance on Netflix’s likely future course, including its use of debt

New SVOD entrants are prioritising reach over revenue in the US with extensive ‘free’ offers, including Apple TV+ (to hardware buyers), Disney+ (to Verizon customers), HBO Max (to HBO subscribers) and Comcast’s Peacock (to basic cable homes)

This is the latest development in an unfolding global story of partnerships, continuing on from multiple Netflix and Amazon distribution deals with platforms, bringing benefits to both parties

In Europe, Sky faces price pressure, but it has secured its HBO partnership and can now talk to Disney from a position of strength

With a raft of new streaming services about to hit, there remains a question as to the appetite for multiple subscriptions

Pay-TV subscribers continue to be more likely to take SVOD services—especially when they are distributed on their set-top boxes—however the average number of services per household is well below one

Greater variety and quality of services will likely increase the average number of subscriptions but given the siloing nature of these services, Netflix’s incumbency, library and distribution are its strength; new entrants will battle for a supplementary role

Netflix lost 126,000 US subscribers (net) in Q2, the first time this has happened since 2011 when a price rise accompanied the Qwikster debacle

This time a price rise—of one or two dollars, depending on tier—was one culprit, but the soft release schedule of big, returning original series, which usually give a bump to subscriber additions, played a part

Q3 has those series returns in spades, Stranger ThingsOrange Is the New BlackMoney Heist and Mindhunter likely driving subscriber numbers back up, but the suggestion that there is less flexibility to raise prices than previously assumed is a worry for Netflix and incoming competitors

Disney announced that it would acquire Comcast’s 33% share of Hulu in a put/call agreement that can be enacted by either party from January 2024, while taking full operational control of the vehicle immediately.

Under the agreement Disney will pay Comcast a minimum of $9 billion for its current stake, provided Comcast fulfils agreed capital calls, which going forward would be just over $500 million/year.

Disney secured the continued licensing of NBCUniversal content for Hulu, contributing about 30% of Hulu’s library, but Comcast can loosen obligations to Hulu for the launch of its own SVOD service in 2020.

Disney now controls third-party content aggregator Hulu, which has 25 million subscribers in the US. Ramped up by Fox content, Hulu’s operating losses are expected to peak in FY2019 at $1.5 billion, with profits by FY2023 or FY2024 

Serving only Disney content, Disney+ launches in the US at the low price of $6.99/month this November, and in 2020 in Europe and Asia Pacific in 2021, aiming to reach the challenging goal of 60-90 million subscribers in five years

ESPN+, Hulu, Disney+ combined could contribute 13% of Disney’s revenues by 2024, which does not intend to disturb existing channels and windows for catalogue and new content, aside from withdrawing content from Netflix

Linear TV is still a mass market medium, watched by 90% of the UK population each week. However, our latest viewing forecasts predict broadcasters will account for two-thirds of all video viewing in 2028, down from c. 80% today, due to the relentless rise of online video services

Total viewing will continue to increase as more short-form content is squeezed into people’s days, particularly on portable devices, but the key battleground for eyeballs will remain the TV screen

The online shift has already had a huge impact among younger age groups, with only 55% of under-35s’ current viewing to broadcasters. Older audiences are slowly starting to follow suit, but have a long way to go

Across the EU4, pay-TV is proving resilient in the face of fast growing Netflix (with Amazon trailing), confirming the catalysts of cord-cutting in the US are not present on this side of the Atlantic. Domestic SVOD has little traction so far.

France's pay-TV market seems likely to see consolidation. Meanwhile, Germany's OTT sector is ebullient, with incumbents bringing an array of new or enhanced offers to market.

Italy has been left with a sole major pay-TV platform—Sky—following Mediaset's withdrawal, while Spain's providers, by and large, are enjoying continued growth in subscriptions driven by converged bundles and discounts.

With the UK perhaps Netflix’s most valuable market outside the US—home to a stellar production sector—the streaming service is escalating its foray into local production, opening a content hub in London and moving from co-productions to direct commissions

As UK content completely dominates UK video viewing outside of the SVODs, to expand subscription reach Netflix is endeavouring to become an alternative to the PSBs’ entertainment output; this local spend is efficient given the universality and worldwide appetite for British content

With a growing proportion of local content expenditure now coming from Netflix and other SVODs, there are ramifications for both broadcasters and producers—loss of viewing, potential market pressure, increased competition for premium content and hesitancy around their own SVOD plans—along with implications for the cultural landscape

The Scandinavian markets sit at the cutting edge of the TV industry’s evolution—a product of tech-savvy citizens, superb connectivity, and generally high incomes

Take-up of SVOD is high, yet while this has had a pronounced effect on viewing, pay-TV subscription numbers have proved surprisingly resilient

Traditionally dominant public service broadcasters are under greater financial and political pressures, with the licence fee scrapped in both Denmark and Sweden