Though it's been around for more than a decade, video streaming is just getting started. The concept was popularized by Netflix (NFLX -0.98%), which debuted its streaming service in 2007. Since then, competition has ramped up considerably, but Netflix has been able to maintain its lead.
The streaming giant's domination isn't likely to change any time soon, but Disney (DIS -1.38%) will move quickly up the ranks and capture the most new subscribers over the coming five years, according to new research.
In five years, five global platforms will control the majority of the video streaming market, with Netflix being the largest, according to projections released by business intelligence company Digital TV Research. The largest streaming video-on-demand services will share 529 million subscribers between them by 2025.
Netflix will boast nearly 236 million subscribers, with Amazon (AMZN -2.48%) Prime Video taking up a distant second with 135 million viewers. Disney+, among the most recent entrants into the streaming wars, will come in third with 101 million subscribers. AT&T's (T -1.14%) HBO and Apple's (AAPL 0.00%) streaming service Apple TV+ will round out the top five with 30 million and 27 million subscribers, respectively.
Disney will be the biggest gainer in the coming years, nabbing 101 million subscribers, while Netflix will increase its customer count by 70 million.
A second opinion
Digital TV Research isn't the only one to draw those conclusions. Netflix and Prime Video are "best positioned" to succeed, according to Nomura Instinet analyst Mark Kelley. In a note to clients this week, the analyst explained that streaming services must provide "splashy, new frontline content" in order to attract customers, as well as a "long-tail library to keep users engaged after consuming the initial hits."
Netflix and Amazon both fit that bill. Disney+ has benefited from a sizable library of fan favorites and has also hit it big with The Mandalorian, creating significant social media buzz with "Baby Yoda," a character which has become the source of a never-ending stream of memes.
Two future releases, AT&T's HBO Max and the Peacock service from Comcast (CMCSA 0.52%) segment NBCUniversal each promise a large library of back-catalog programming that will keep viewers engaged but will need headliners to reel them in. This provides "a path [forward] for HBO Max and Peacock."
The weakest offering is Apple TV+. While the nascent service made a splash with The Morning Show, its limited selection of other programs leaves it as the "most in question" of the new services, according to Kelley, who labels the service as "luke warm."
It should be categorically stated that streaming isn't a zero-sum game, and there will be multiple winners. Those looking for additional evidence need look no further than recent data released by app analytics provider App Annie.
The data suggests that a surprising 25% of those who watch Netflix on their iPhone are also watching Disney+, among viewers who opened the app at least once per month. That's the highest degree of overlap among streaming services. About 22% of Netflix viewers also used Hulu, which is also a high amount of overlap.
Research by Bank of America analyst Nat Schindler found that of more than 1,000 consumers, 65% said they don't view Disney+ as a substitute for Netflix but rather a complementary service.
The bottom line
While the popular phrase "the streaming wars" seems to suggest there will be one undisputed winner, the truth is much more nuanced. What's more likely is that there will be a multitude of winners, with three of four platforms accounting for the lion's share of audiences. While Netflix and Amazon are currently the leaders, it appears increasingly likely that Disney will be among the long-term winners as well.
Investors should act accordingly.