It’s not easy to anticipate what’s going to happen in the subscription video streaming space. Just look at the divergent fortunes on display in the recently concluded third quarter: Netflix reported a strong Q3 subscriber beat after a relatively soft first half of the year in terms of subscriber adds, while Disney+ posted its weakest quarter-over-quarter sub growth since launch.
But while unpredictability was everywhere you looked in the streaming wars of 2021, there are some educated guesses to be made as to what will happen next. Below are VIP+’s top five predictions for the video streaming business in 2022 …
1. Comcast Acquires Lionsgate’s Starz
Lionsgate on in its Nov. 4 earnings call announced that the board had okayed the exploration of a sale for premium cable and streaming service Starz. Comcast feels like the right company to complete such a transaction, though CEO Brian Roberts has been playing it cool lately with regard to demonstrating any kind of acquisitive appetite. But as VIP+ recently suggested, Comcast’s main U.S. streamer Peacock has much room for improvement and has lacked a real breakout original hit since launch. Comcast could bolster Peacock by bundling it with Starz in a similar fashion to how ViacomCBS does with Paramount+ and Showtime. Starz counted 12 million global OTT subs as of September, a sizable sum that can keep Comcast more competitive in the streaming wars.
2. Apple Acquires an Indie Film Studio
The Cupertino-headquartered tech giant had $35 billion in cash as of calendar Q3, yet Apple TV+ still has one of the smallest libraries of the major U.S. streamers, recent Ampere Analysis data suggests. Apple TV+ is reportedly planning on doubling its content output in 2022, but it would still make sense for Apple to bulk up by acquiring another studio, as that could give the tech company ownership of intellectual property capable of spawning reboots. But while a Lionsgate could be perfect in that regard, perhaps it will start smaller with an indie studio like A24 or Magnolia Pictures (both have held M&A talks). Seems strategically sound for Apple, which has been generally interested in prestige content since launch (although it has more recently upped its big-budgeted efforts).
3. Disney+ Places Emphasis on Adding Programming That Can Appeal to Adults
Disney+ needs to make a big change if it wants to continue the great growth it’s seen up until 2021, which included a fiscal Q4 where the streamer posted its slowest quarter-over-quarter sub growth since launch. Adult-targeted programming could be one change that’s welcomed among current Disney+ subscribers as well as prospective Disney+ customers, as recent survey data from Whip Media suggested. For example, slightly over 63% of respondents in a November Whip Media survey of TV Time users said they agreed or strongly agreed with the notion that they’d watch Disney+ more often if it offered more content targeted to adults. Moreover, over 50% of respondents said they’d watch Disney+ more if it included free access to Hulu originals such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Solar Opposites,” which are both rated TV-MA (read the full breakdown of Whip Media’s survey results here).
4. Netflix Wins the Most Oscars Among SVODs
Film output alone likely positions Netflix best to get the most Oscar wins out of any streamer and perhaps even among all film studios in general (as Netflix did earlier in 2021). But even going off current awards forecasts, it seems like Netflix again will be the winningest SVOD at the Oscars in 2022. As of Dec. 2, Variety film awards editor Clayton Davis had seven Netflix films among his top 40 ranked films for 2022 Best Picture contenders. That figure was just four for Amazon and three for Apple. But it’s other categories that Netflix has strong contenders in, too. Many forecasters currently see Netflix’s “Power of the Dog” and “The Lost Daughter” as frontrunners for Best Actor and Best Actress, respectively.
5. Other SVODs Launch Mobile Gaming Apps
The road seems paved for more streamers to dabble in mobile gaming now that Netflix and even HBO are involved in the space. Mobile games are not only a way for streaming services to potentially get additional data on existing viewers, but it could also allow for the media companies that control streamers (like NBCU and Peacock) to reach more younger viewers in future years that won’t be tuning into traditional media platforms. And this helps explain why Griffin Gaming managing director Peter Levin stressed the importance of gaming to media companies in an interview with VIP+ for our recent “Metaverse & Media” special report. “If you’re any type of legacy media business or you’re in sports, it’s no longer a luxury for you to be in gaming; it’s a strategic imperative,” Levin said.