Netflix lost 200,000 global paid subscribers in the first quarter of 2022 — and then lost over $75 billion in valuation. (And now it’s being sued over both of those things.) Pretty rough start to the new year, but Netflix wasn’t the only SVOD service that streamed the bed in calendar Q1. Here’s how everyone else fared in streaming so far this year.
HBO and HBO Max added a combined 3 million subscribers last quarter totaling 76.8 million (48.6 million of whom came from the U.S.). Pretty good growth in the final quarter under AT&T’s oversight, but it came at a cost. The phone company’s operating expenses topped $14 billion last quarter for a variety of reasons, including “higher HBO Max bundling costs,” according to AT&T’s financial disclosures.
Fortunately, WarnerMedia subscription revenues also rose, though only 4.4 percent to $4 billion, thanks mostly to the SVOD growth. (Costs grew by 10 percent.) Increases in HBO Max’s licensing revenue also pitched in.
Discovery, Inc. ended the first quarter of 2022 with 24 million direct-to-consumer (DTC) subscribers, an increase of 2 million subs since the end of Q4 2021. While the vast majority of that comes from Discovery+, some smaller international platforms are also rolled up into that tally.
Remember: Q1 closed about one week before the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger, so the results are already old news for those players. In the case of Discovery, the same guys (led by David Zaslav, they’re pretty much all guys) still oversee the relevant assets going forward.
As of April 8, 2022, the official birthdate of Warner Bros. Discovery, HBO Max and Discovery+ are under the same umbrella. They’ve yet to be combined into one platform or even bundled into a convenient subscription package.
You know what’s (already) no longer under that umbrella and definitely will not be in any sort of future bundling? CNN+. If you were which SVOD service(s) could have possibly experienced a worse quarter than Netflix, well, here’s one.
The disastrous CNN-extension platform launched on March 29, 2021, when there were three days left in Q1. Sadly, 72 hours was plenty enough time to predict how bad an idea CNN+ was. CNN+, which did not have any programming from the highly successful CNN linear-cable channel, was put out of its misery on April 28.
The successor to Seeso (remember that?),
The three-tiered NBCUniversal streaming service ended Q1 2022 with 28 million active accounts, of which 13 million were paid subscribers. Those were up from Peacock’s 24.5 million active accounts and 8 million paid subs at the end of 2021.
While Peacock’s free tier still makes up more than half of its accounts, the paid stuff is gaining ground. Or at least, it did in February when the platform’s first-quarter increases were driven by the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the Super Bowl, although subscribers also consumed large quantities of Jennifer Lopez rom-com movie “Marry Me” and the dramatic reimagining of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Bel-Air.”
NBCU’s distribution revenue rose in the quarter thanks to the Peacock growth, but higher programming costs followed suit. And unless the newer SVOD platforms are quietly rethinking their large content spends in the wake of Netflix’s bombshell and subsequent fallout, that balancing act of expenses vs. revenue won’t tip in their favor for years to come.
Although Apple TV+ provides virtually no numbers, “CODA” made it the first streaming service to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Oh, and “Severance” absolutely rules; Apple CEO Tim Cook should save some shelf space for those pending Emmys. So, cool quarter from that standpoint.
The iPhone maker is notoriously short on financial details beyond those required by the SEC and its SVOD service is a tiny of the overall Apple business. On the final day of the first quarter, a person with knowledge of Apple TV+ performance metrics told IndieWire viewing “skyrocketed” by 300 percent over the prior week, and drew 25 percent more “new viewers to the service.” Translation: Since the Oscars ceremony was March 27, that means overall Apple TV+ sign-ups increased by 25 percent from the week before the Academy Awards to the week after.
Like Apple TV+, we don’t get much out of Amazon in terms of its Prime Video service’s performance. While Amazon has literally hundreds of millions of subscribers and Apple has far (FAR) fewer, the reality is that the vast majority of potential “Reacher” viewers signed up for Prime’s free two-day shipping. The “Video” component of Amazon Prime Video is a nice bonus — but that doesn’t make it an afterthought.
Last quarter, Amazon Prime Video acquired MGM for $8.5 billion. Also of distinction, especially since we included that “CODA” point above, Prime Video became the first streaming service to exclusively carry a major awards show live with the 57th annual Academy of Country Music Awards. It was a good trial run for the service’s upcoming “Thursday Night Football” package, which will cost Amazon $1 billion annually over the next 11 years.
The IMDb TV rebrand to Amazon Freevee came in early Q2 and if FAST is the future of streaming, Freevee could be one to watch. (If you can get past the name.)
One FAST service people are definitely already watching is Paramount’s Pluto TV. In the first quarter of 2022, Pluto TV expanded its global monthly active users to nearly 68 million. It also led the way for a 59 percent year-over-year increase in Paramount’s overall DTC (direct to consumer) advertising revenue.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it outshone Paramount+. All told, the rebranded ViacomCBS service experienced DTC revenue growth of 82 percent (to $1.1 billion) last quarter. Subscription revenue growth appears even bigger: It increased 95 percent from the comparable quarter in 2021, but Paramount’s adjusted OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) decreased by $307 million.
From January to March, Paramount+ added 6.8 million subscribers, ending the quarter with nearly 40 million. However, the combination of BET+, Noggin, Showtime OTT, and some international streaming services lost 500,000 subs in the same quarter. (Paramount does not break out those figures.)
Roku is a weird one because it is both a hardware device for streaming other apps on this list as well as an ad-supported streaming app via the Roku Channel. In Q1, 39 percent year-over-year growth in Roku’s platform revenue (so, the advertising) outpaced its hardware sales. The company’s Q1 gross profit rose 12 percent.
The Roku Channel was a top five channel on the Roku platform in Q1, according to the company’s quarterly note to shareholders. Roku added 1.1 million active accounts in Q1, reaching 61.3 million in total. Streaming hours increased by 1.4 billion hours to 20.9 billion. All of that was enough for the media analysts at MoffettNathanson to upgrade Roku stock from a “Sell” to “Neutral.”
AMC Networks ended the first quarter of 2022 with 9.5 million streaming subscribers across its portfolio (AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now, ALLBLK, and HIDIVE), an increase of fewer than half-a-million subs. The modest uptick was enough to increase AMC Networks’ overall subscription revenue by eight percent.
The AMC Networks executives have described the company’s SVOD approach as “not something for everyone, but everything to someone.” Essentially, it’s the anti-Netflix plan. When Netflix adds ads, the chasm between AMC’s all-SVOD approach and Netflix’s will only widen.
Fox’s television ad sales jumped $54 million, or six percent, in the quarter, thanks in large part to Tubi. Cool, right? Not so much when spending goes through the roof just to keep up. Fox’s profit pretty much halved from the first quarter of 2021 and 2022, sending its stock in the wrong direction Tuesday. At Tubi’s NewFront last week, the ad-supported streaming service said it reached 51 million MAUs (monthly active users) at the end of 2021 and hit a record-breaking 3.6 billion hours watched for the year.
Disney closed the January-March quarter with 205.6 million total paid streaming subscribers around the globe, which was up 9.2 million from the prior quarter. Disney+ accounted for 137.7 million of those, and growth there of 7.9 million subs outpaced the market’s expectations. In the U.S. and Canada, Disney+ rose from 42.9 million subs last quarter to 44.4 million at the end of this one. The Walt Disney Corporation’s streaming portfolio includes Disney+, Disney+ Hotstar, ESPN+, and Hulu.
All told, Disney’s direct-to-consumer revenues rose 23 percent from the comparable quarter last year, but the segment lost $900 million. So you tell us if that “Turning Red” gamble paid off.
Additionally, Disney got nailed by a $1 billion reduction in the quarter to, per the company, “early terminate license agreements for film and television content delivered in previous years” in favor of using the content on its own DTC services. Guess content is still king.