Streaming platforms have surged in popularity during the pandemic. But is the trend here to stay?
If you’re someone who’s invested in a streaming service subscription since the Covid-19 pandemic sent the world into lockdown, then you’re not alone. Business boomed for streaming platforms when most of the world became home-bound. In 2020, the number of streaming subscriptions across platforms crossed one billion worldwide.
Numbers to consider
The number of streaming service subscribers skyrocketed (try saying that five times, fast) at the beginning of worldwide lockdowns in 2020. Netflix hit 200 million subscribers and Disney+, which is less than three years old, followed just behind with 100 million.
Box office revenues, which were at a record-breaking US$42.3 billion in 2019, came plunging by more than US$30 billion in 2020 due to the pandemic. Revenues fell to US$12 billion as movie theaters were closed as precautionary measures against Covid-19. But someone’s loss can often be another’s gain. In this case, streaming platforms hit the jackpot as their popularity offset the steep losses suffered by the box office.
What caused the surge in popularity of streaming platforms?
As waves after waves of Covid-19 have made it difficult and dangerous to go outside, millions were left to find their entertainment indoors. During this time, uncertainty and boredom gripped the world. When people cannot go to movie theaters, they turn to these streaming platforms to satisfy their entertainment needs, leading to the surge in subscribers on these platforms. This is when streaming platforms, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Hulu and Disney+, have stepped in and provided access to long hours of at-home entertainment.
Moreover, the prices of streaming services were considered a positive bargain when compared to cable television. Cable TV would often come in subscription packages that included multiple channels that the user may have no interest in watching. Moreover, the shows provided by cable TV are “on-air”, meaning that viewers can only watch what is being broadcast when they turn on the TV. In comparison, streaming platforms offer “on-demand” contents, meaning that we can watch anything we want from the curation at any time.
Streaming services also have the advantage of being bingeable, meaning a user can watch the entirety of available content in a series format in quick succession, without having to wait for a specific airing time on TV.
New changes in the streaming media scene
The surge in popularity of streaming services encouraged the launch of many more of these streaming platforms, like HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi (which was unfortunately shut down eight months after its launch), as businesses tried to maximize profits from the trend. Amazon’s Amazon Prime Video and HBO Max have increased their efforts to enlarge their share in international markets.
Even before the pandemic, streaming platforms had already been popular, especially among younger generations. Back in January 2019, The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) recently welcomed Netflix into its fold, even though the company doesn’t rely on movie theater ticket sales. Such a move shows that the demand for streaming services has been recognized and the prospect of the industry is promising—and the pandemic has further boosted the hype.
With the number of streaming service subscribers increasing, many studios have shifted their focus toward episodic series, which have seen more popularity recently, instead of longer feature films.
Will streaming services remain popular?
This is the question that everyone ponders. But things took an interesting turn, making it even harder to reach a conclusion. With the foothold so firmly established, many streaming services have recently hiked their prices, displaying much confidence that the growing necessity of their services would keep customers subscribed. As of February 2022, Netflix has hiked its premium subscription to USD$19.99 per month, with Amazon Prime just behind it with USD$15 per month.
This has created a power disbalance between platforms. Customers who were previously subscribed to multiple platforms are now canceling subscriptions that they feel are not giving them enough bang for their buck. For instance, Netflix recently reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers globally.
That said, it seems people will hold onto the video-on-demand lifestyle for a while longer. Even as theaters are gradually beginning to reopen in 2022, many remain wary of indoor public spaces. Others have come to prefer the convenience of consuming their desired media content within the comfort and privacy of their own homes over public screenings. It can be speculated that these factors may overshadow the popularity of theaters in the near future, making movie going more of a niche pastime than the norm.
Platforms with good curations and original content would survive the exodus of canceled subscriptions. Getting away with the consequences of incremental hikes in pricing might not be too difficult, as long as they have the content to back them up.
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