Despite some significant subscriber losses projected for Netflix this year, the global online video business will continue to see strong growth for at least the next six years, according to a new study by Omdia, a sister company of Light Reading.
Omdia projects that the number of online video subscriptions will rise 10.5% this year to reach 1.48 billion worldwide. That follows a 17.7% surge in 2021 to 1.34 billion subs.
Omdia sees this strong growth continuing through at least 2027, when it forecasts that online video subs will surpass the 2 billion mark. The forecast period ends with 2027, but the growth curve is still looking strong after that &ndash an indication that the growth may keep going up.
"Online video services are continuing to experience impressive growth levels and there is a lot more to come," said Adam Thomas, a senior principal analyst on Omdia's TV and online video team. As examples, he cited strong growth or promising prospects for such streaming services as Disney+, Paramount+, Peacock, HBO Max, Discovery+ and others.
In contrast, Omdia expects the legacy pay-TV business to decline slowly over the next six years after all but levelling off last year. The research firm's latest forecast calls for the number of traditional pay-TV subs to dip to 1.0 billion by 2027, down 1.9% from 1.03 billion at the end of 2021.
"Pay-TV hasn't crashed and burned yet," Thomas said. "It's happening slowly."
Say goodbye to pay-TV-only business
Thomas said there are fewer consumers clinging to just their legacy pay-TV subscriptions; By the end of the decade, many customers either add online video choices to their premium packages or leave pay-TV altogether. "[Traditional] pay-TV-only is very much in decline," he said. "We don't expect it to continue much beyond five years." He expects most remaining pay-TV subs to pick up at least one streaming service.
The legacy pay-TV business still accounts for the lion's share of video subscription revenues, commanding 72% of the estimated $308 billion global market last year. But that dominant market share dropped from 89% in 2017 and it's projected to slip further to 60% by 2027, according to Omdia latest forecast.
Omdia forecasts that the combined global pay-TV and online video business will pass 3 billion subs by 2027, up from 2.37 billion subs at the close of last year. That projected increase will be entirely due to the online video industry. As a result, Omdia predicts that total annual global video subscription revenues will reach a whopping $353 billion by 2027.
Mixed bag internationally
Omdia found that 55 countries are still reporting traditional pay-TV sub growth, led by Indonesia, South Korea, France, Bulgaria and South Africa. At the same time, Omdia found that 41 countries are now reporting pay-TV sub declines while five countries are "essentially static." Not surprisingly, the US led the way down, followed by India, Brazil, Canada and Germany.
"The US declined the most by far and we expect it to continue to decline the most," Thomas said. His forecast calls for the US to shed nearly another 17 million pay-TV subs by 2027.
Note of caution for online video
Despite his bullish projections for the online video industry in general, Thomas offered a "small note of caution" for it as well, as it grapples with soaring content investment costs, the need to boost subscription prices and an extremely price-sensitive public. Noting that market leader Netflix is expected to report a loss of 2 million streaming subscribers in Q2 2022 after dropping 200,000 subs in Q1, he argued that online video players may well run into the same headwinds as legacy pay-TV providers, especially as more competitors enter the already fragmented market.
"The content costs versus pricing balancing act is a tricky one to navigate," he said. "It is quite clear that constant growth for online video is by no means guaranteed."
In light of these trends, Thomas praises Netflix's recent moves to explore buying and/or building an ad-supported option for its premium service. Despite some "slight" reservations about the idea, he thinks it make sense given that many of the service's main competitors are pursuing hybrid subscription/ad-supported models too.
"It's probably a good idea," he said. "It's definitely something they should consider."
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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading