Revisiting The State Of The Streaming Industry In 2023

We once wrote that streamed entertainment was going to dominate ‘with no end in sight.’ That was back in 2021, so let’s see how those predictions held up. Here’s a tight rundown of the numbers, the drama, and the state of streaming and its relationship with movies in 2023.

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How Internet Entertainment Still Dominates

First, it’s clear that streaming is still the main way people are watching TV shows, and movies too. While subscriber numbers were at 195 million before, Netflix is now at approximately 230 million. Disney Plus continued its meteoric rise, doubling 2021’s figures to around 160 million subscribers, and Disney projects without fail appear on the streaming service once theatre tickets aren’t selling.

It isn’t just streaming. In our initial piece, we included survey results about screentime usage. Those haven’t changed, people are just as glued to their phone screens as ever before, if not more so. Online entertainment has only gotten better all round, in streaming, in YouTube content, and in iGaming which continues to grow from strength to strength. iGaming especially has many built-in benefits like free spins that mirror early streaming services and their free trials. The result is that those plugged into the internet are far more likely to stream a movie or play online slot games at Paddy’s than engage with traditional ways of watching media. Every form of entertainment has its place, of course, but when so many options are available from home, most will gravitate toward that convenience.

Subscriber Growth & Profit

Since 2021, we have seen a further shift in how these streaming services operate too. After dropping the free trial in late 2020, some accurately predicted that Netflix was shifting to a profit focus. It’s a trend with many companies, particularly those nestled in Silicon Valley, to go through growth and then monetize when that growth starts. Some, like Twitter, don’t make a profit at all in the 2010s. The profit focus began in this new decade, summarized by Vox here.

Netflix doubled down on this with the long-rumored, now active password sharing crackdown. Early results of that crackdown have Netflix’s subscribers up, mainly per a viral report by Antenna that tracked Netflix gaining 70,000+ subscribers in about four days. This was no doubt helped by the fact Netflix had implemented a cheaper, ad-activated account beforehand to sweeten the pot.

Netflix saw a big bump in new subscribers in the US after it began warning customers that it will limit account sharing, according to research firm Antenna

— Bloomberg (@business) June 9, 2023

While their moves weren’t popular with everybody, Netflix’s strategy indicates a similar shift from metric growth to profit growth. They correlate for the most part but in the past, Netflix could offer free trials and account sharing, push up user and view counts, and gather venture capital and market confidence from that. Now Netflix is the king of streaming, it’s a harder proposition, since not even they can grow its user base forever. So something needs to grow to propel the company forward and please investors – profit.

Is The End In Sight?

So Netflix and its competitors still seem to have a stranglehold on popular entertainment in 2023. Big competitors like Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Paramount Plus still offer free trials in some form while Disney Plus has followed Netflix in axing them, which makes sense given Disney’s exclusive catalog of content. Exclusive content is something that is going to be more important in the future, as the market becomes more saturated than it already is. Netflix and Disney still lead the pack with the best content and while the market is saturated, it’s saturated in their favor. Netflix’s dominance is plain to see, per this map by Visual Capitalist.

Streaming isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, that’s for sure. What we have now is a split between the biggest competing platforms, with Netflix deciding on this path when they have more competitors than they ever had before. It’s understandable to see that as a tactical blunder, that a competitor could outplay Netflix by giving more free offers, but exclusivity changes the game. In a market that runs off ease of access, customers can get fickle if the exclusive content isn’t enough to impress.