Streaming video services, the popularity of which was snowballing even before the coronavirus pandemic, have taken over the world. Data published by the Motion Picture Association of America on Thursday reveal that the total number of subscribers for such services hit 1.1 billion in 2020. That was a 26% increase over the previous year.
Americans in particular were eager streamers. Subscriptions to such services increased at a 32% clip to reach almost 309 million in total.
The pandemic, of course, was a key factor. Movie theaters pack crowds of people tightly together in an enclosed space, so for obvious reasons many of them were shuttered during the outbreak.
Undaunted, movie studios mass-released a number of their offerings -- including their summer "tentpoles" -- through such services. Walt Disney, for instance, premiered the latest offering from its Pixar animation unit, Soul, on the Disney+ platform.
Those classic movie studios, meanwhile, are of course facing stiff competition from the likes of relative newcomers like Netflix (NFLX 0.17%). Stealing a page from Hollywood, Netflix has doubled down on original film content, spending lavish amounts of money to attract directing and acting talent for high-budget films.
That approach is clearly resonating with consumers, as Netflix recently crossed the 200 million global subscriptions threshold while collecting an impressive number of Academy Award nominations.
Even as the pandemic fades away, we can expect continued growth, although it might not be as robust as in stay-at-home times. ViacomCBS' Paramount+ service has launched to much fanfare, and Comcast's newish Peacock is bulking up with content like World Wrestling Entertainment's big library of wrestling matches and events.
Streamer stocks were generally downers on Thursday, though, with Netflix falling 3.8% and Disney shedding 1.5%. The S&P 500 closed the day 1.5% lower.