This week, there were two pieces of streaming video news that seem like they don't go together. We'll get to why they actually do in a minute. The first was that Netflix is expected to have its best quarter ever for new subscribers, topping analysts' estimates and adding almost 10 million new subscribers. That's according to a report from Goldman Sachs.
The second is that 25 percent of Netflix users also use Disney+ on a regular basis, according to the State of Mobile report from App Annie. So, while a quarter of Netflix's subscribers are also using Disney+, they're not leaving Netflix.
It's pretty obvious that signing up lots of new subscribers is a good thing for Netflix. That is, after all, how the company makes money. And Netflix has more subscribers than any other streaming service. It also keeps getting nominated for awards.
On the other hand, Netflix doesn't have advertisers, so it doesn't matter as much if someone watches and then changes the proverbial channel. It doesn't hurt Netflix if 25 percent of its subscribers decide to sign up for a free Disney+ plan. As long as subscribers continue to be, well, subscribers, Netflix keeps making money.
At the same time, NBCUniversal rolled out the details of its upcoming Peacock streaming service, which launches April 15 if you currently have Comcast as your cable provider. It launches for the rest of the country on July 15, which conveniently is nine days before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics, NBC's flagship event. Peacock will house familiar content like The Office (which leaves its home on Netflix in 2021), as well as films from Universal like Jurassic Park.
The service is targeting the lower price point we've seen from recent entries, debuting with a free version, a $5 per month ad-supported option with additional content, and a $10 per month plan that gets rid of the ads. That brings it in line with Disney+, Hulu, and Apple TV+, though it will certainly have a larger catalog than Apple's nascent streaming service.
All of this leads to the fact that, despite what many analysts and observers thought (this one included), consumers haven't grown weary of the multitude of subscription services that have popped up. That's largely due to the fact that if you buy a new iPhone on Verizon, for example, you can get a year of Apple TV+ and Disney+ for free. And if you have Comcast, you can get the $5 per month version of Peacock for free.
On the other hand, what isn't clear--and what we won't know for a while--is what happens when all of those services start costing us $5 or $10 or $15 a month (that's roughly HBO Max's entry point). I'm still not convinced that people will stick around and pay for a service like Peacock just to get every episode ever of Law & Order.
For now, however, it seems like all of these services are happy to co-exist. In fact, most will tell you that they aren't competing with the current leader, Netflix, at all. They'll tell you they're creating a unique experience with vast libraries of content that users want. And they'll tell you that it's working. Then again, everyone likes free, so of course it's working.
We'll see what happens when people have to really pay and start to pick and choose. That's when this war will really begin.