The Biggest Takeaways From the Video Streaming Wars in 2021 (So Far)

The Biggest Takeaways From the Video
Cheyne Gateley/VIP+

The summer isn’t even over yet, but 2021 is already providing more glimpses of the future of the video streaming space than many anticipated.

Early on in the year, it seemed like 2021 could be more of the same. Disney+ would continue to make its case as the most successful post-Netflix-era video streamer, while others launching in this era (HBO Max, Discovery+, Peacock et al.) might just take a back seat. But the WarnerMedia-Discovery and Amazon-MGM deal announcements in the first half of 2021 proved it’s far too early to call winners of the post-Netflix time in the video streaming wars.

As the catalogs of notable streamers like HBO Max, Discovery+ and Prime Video improve thanks to M&A deals, other streamers will feel pressured to compete by more aggressively spending on originals or engaging in M&A themselves. 

Market leader Netflix has blamed recent tepid subscriber numbers on its great growth on the pull-forward effect the streaming service experienced throughout the pandemic. International territories have been a focus for the streamer as growth in the U.S. has become more difficult, encouraging Netflix to increasingly spend on local-language originals.

International growth will increasingly become a focus of new streamers that launched within the last two years as well. After all, WarnerMedia earlier in 2021 announced that over the next two years it will develop more than 100 local productions across Latin America as HBO Max Originals.  

It also became clearer to industry observers this year that ascertaining the performance of video streaming originals will remain a detective’s exercise, at least in the near term. And there are now tons of firms ramping up claiming to understand how certain streaming titles perform, though you could also argue the abundance of these firms makes streaming performance even less straightforward.

This is an excerpt from Variety Intelligence Platform’s latest special report, “Dare to Stream,” an exhaustive analysis of the major U.S. players in the streaming wars. It is the fifth iteration of our U.S. SVOD-landscape-focused report, which was first published in 2019, and spotlights the key metrics (reach, content spend, consumer satisfaction, most popular titles, catalog size) of major SVODs and offers actionable insights to companies looking to get ahead in the streaming wars.