Unsurprisingly, Netflix continues to do well amidst the pandemic. They were the first streamer to start spending en masse on original content and that foresight is paying back huge dividends.
Stay with this longer post. A lot to digest and think about in 2021 and am very curious what you think might happen.
Most of us are cocooned, waiting for the virus to subside. Some, hopefully continuing to increase, are working, but there isn’t much else to do outsides in the movie sector anyway. Plenty to do for those who unplug and use nature for solace.
I read one article that predicted rather stupidly 6-7 years for the bulk of the population to be vaccinated. Years? No. I don’t think it will be 6-7 months either, so the smart money is that 2021 is largely going to replay 2020. Theaters aren’t doomed, so don’t drink from that fountain of despair, but they aren’t going to be anything close to 2019 numbers. Probably a small to medium improvement over 2020 is about the best they can hope for.
We just want to be able to see more than the 44+ new movies in theaters we watched in 2020. So far, with January almost gone, we’ve watched a goose egg in theaters. That’s not a promising start. No idea when theaters in our area will be reopened again and the closest theater remains almost 250 miles away. We’re not driving that far — at least regularly — to watch new movies in theaters. When the weather improves in spring and summer, maybe we’ll do that a few times. Again, it all depends on what’s going on with the virus. Our regular movie theater coverage will continue as soon as theaters reopen — whenever that will be …
Next month we’re going to Vegas again. We’d like to do that once or twice a year, and there are movies open there, so we will be sure to catch at least one movie in our short sojourn there. We were last there in March 2020, when the pandemic seemed to hit its stride.
Enough of theaters, as there isn’t much positive to discuss there. Let’s get back to Netflix and what’s happening across streaming in 2021.
They are promising investors that they will be cash positive going forward, which for any business is sound. Assuming that’s true, we’re going to have to drop the narrative that they are a business running in the red. If you hold onto the lead in eyeballs and interest long enough, like they have — and congrats to them, because they are doing it — you will make money.
In 2020, we watched more Netflix than any other streamer, but close behind was Amazon Prime Video, which oddly isn’t mentioned. Netflix is clearly more worried about Disney+.
Despite mounting competition, Netflix added 8.5 million subscribers in the period and 37 million in 2020, well ahead of forecasts. That brings it to 203.7 million, well ahead of the 86.8 million for Disney+, but nevertheless executives were a bit more forthcoming than usual about seeing mouse ears in the rear-view mirror.Netflix Brass Reacts To Disney’s Streaming Strides: “Super-Impressive” But Not Quite ‘Bridgerton’ Buzz – Deadline
Is Disney a sleeping giant with all that juicy IP? Most of their IP is still in the underutilized phase. Subscribers aren’t getting any new Mandalorian in 2021. We are getting that Boba Fett series at the end of 2021. December isn’t exactly soon.
On the Marvel front, there’s the Wandvision series that just kicked off. Movies? There should be a few of the MCU movies that make it to the service in 2021, maybe. Black Widow is probably the most notable, but there’s a few more.
So, with Star Wars and Marvel not exactly killing it with content on Disney+, what’s the play? They can only hang around on legacy content so long. With parents and grandparents like us with little ones to show animated movies, Disney remains king, but Netflix is surely trying to nibble on this bucket full of apples.
The area Disney could make some moves with is better integration with Hulu, which seems more like an overall competitor from a content perspective. Instead, Hulu is remaining a largely domestic offering, instead focusing on Star for international streaming of more adult-focused content (see: Disney Putting International Muscle Behind Star India instead of Hulu Global Launch?)
But what about Amazon? Why aren’t Netflix saying anything about Amazon? Maybe, the silence is more telling. Amazon at any time seems poised to flex its financial muscle and go full on production studio mode. There’s the whole Lord of the Rings prequel series and a string of originals under development. Will their LOTRO have Game of Thrones juice? Jeff Bezos sure hopes so. Never count out the richest person in the world.
Let’s not forget just how much book content Amazon has at its disposal. Something like 90% of book publishing goes through Amazon’s sales turnstiles. Ready Player Two is in talks for a sequel, will that be another theatrical release or something Amazon or another streamer scoops up in a bidding war for straight to streaming release? With Steven Spielberg behind the first film, it stands to reason the sequel will garner significant interest, especially if he decides to be part of it again (yeah, even if it’s only and probably likely just producing on the project).
Non-concerns seem to be HBO Max, Paramount+, Peacock and Apple TV. I think WarnerMedia’s 17 movies released simultaneously in whatever theaters are open and on HBO Max is by far the best promotion for streaming in 2021 — and that includes Netflix. Will it result in a ton of new subscribers? Maybe. HBO Max is going to need some killer TV series to keep subscribers around, not just movies and whomever is going to rise up to a formidable alternative to Netflix is going to need to understand and embrace retention. That’s an area that Netflix does better at than anybody else in the field, perhaps save Amazon, which keeps people subscribed because it’s included with Amazon Prime.
Walmart has been trying to nip on those heels, so that battle might heat up in 2021. Hard to get too much behind Walmart though, because they tend to dip in and out of stuff historically (ahem, Vudu, see: Walmart Plus launches September 15, maybe they should have kept Vudu). Still, they have a significant retail sector. If you go out shopping somewhere — you know, the real world, offline — for something, there’s most likely a Walmart nearby.
The also rans include CBS All Access, soon to become Paramount+ on March 4, 2021. They’ve officially announced that launch date and we continue to be puzzled why they don’t do more with their legacy content. They still have a paltry amount of movies considering how many they could have. Come on, release the Kraken movie content! They have some great TV shows, but they could do much more. Am curious to see how much they launch with and if it will look more like HBO Max — like it should.
Peacock should probably be last because they seem to have the fewest amount of original content under production. Saved By The Bell, the reboot, is watched first on that service by 3 out of 10 new subscribers. They greenlit that for a season 2. They need much, much more than that reboot to be considered serious competition for the other streamers.
Apple TV+ – It feels like every time we write about them it’s hey, they did this cool and then this long silence waiting for something else to splash. They need to be like a meteor storm in the ocean of streaming content, pelting it all over the place with fresh, original content. I really thought it would be them gobbling up Quibi’s library of content instead of our next and final mainstream streaming player ….
Roku. We need to mention them since they seem to be trying to be more than just a streaming aggregator. A smart move considering Chromecast with Google TV and Amazon Fire are hot competitors in that space. Personally, I just can’t get all that excited about watching movie or TV shows with ads. I know, I know, classic TV had commercials and it’s a space of interest to many people, we aren’t among them. We spend very little of our streaming time watching free, ad-supported channels. What about you?
I mean, if you’re spending on paid streaming channels, why wouldn’t you watch most/all of what you can on those first? It seems like these FREE channels are more for those who are spending very little on streaming channels, maybe only subscribing to Netflix and just using the free channels for everything else? There’s nothing wrong with that strategy and it’s probably a lot more budget conscious.
We don’t spend much on entertainment, especially with theaters currently closed, so a small portion of money we would have spent in theaters is being spent on streaming subscriptions. I don’t think this is going to change that much in 2021.
Where are your movie and TV watching dollars going to go in 2021? Tell us about it in the comments.