What happened to the great Streaming War we were promised way back in 2020? Well, fast forward two years and it all might be about to begin. The catalyst? Netflix’s share price.
Netflix’s stock is in free fall – worth at the time of writing what it was in 2017 – and, more worryingly, it is yet to find a bottom.
For a streaming company that has grown consistently, what happens when you have inflation at record highs which makes people choose between streaming platforms versus paying for all of them, largely saturated markets, and unsustainable growth generated from COVID restrictions which disappear overnight? Well, this.
Netflix lost 200K subscribers in Q1 and is forecast to lose another 2 million next quarter; for the record, they had forecasted adding 2.5M subscribers in Q1 of this year. Netflix will now have to react to stabilise its share price and get back to growing ways, hence the true dawn of the streaming war.
Is this good for us as the consumer? In the long term, yes. In the short term? For some, not so much. There is no doubt that intensified competition is a good thing; it will see Netflix have to raise its content game, which will have a knock-on effect on other streaming platforms – meaning better content and, overall, a better platform.
In the short term, however, it might not be so good. The platform has to get back to growing its revenue to fund future content, which requires a few possible roads to go down.
First: cracking down on account sharing. It is estimated by Netflix that around 100M households currently freeload. Turning just 5% of those into paying customers will provide big benefits, but will leave many of us with a choice about whether we cough up the monthly fee. Another avenue is an ad-supported, cheaper subscription which could be launched in the next few years – which is also unlikely to be well-received.
Finally, for a platform which launched its Netflix Originals offering with big budget showpiece content like Stranger Things and The Crown, it will need to keep its content costs from spiralling out of control. This could see projects of this stature be reduced in the short term and a focus on cheaper, more easily produced content like recent hits Selling Sunset and Love is Blind. It won’t please everyone, however, if the platform feels more like an ITVBe spin-off versus a pioneer in original storytelling.
One thing is for sure: as it all heats up over the next 12 months, it is going to be interesting viewing both on and off the TV screen.