Paramount+, the latest entrant in the streaming wars, launches today, promising a mix of classic TV shows and movies, sort-of-early access to some Hollywood blockbusters, and some reboots of stuff you didn’t know you wanted rebooted: Welcome back, Frasier Crane.
But in some ways, the stuff that ViacomCBS’s new service offers may be less important than the timing of its launch. It comes after every other big media company has rolled out its own streaming service. Which means Paramount+ is entering a very crowded marketplace.
And that means, most likely, that ViacomCBS isn’t just trying to get someone to pay $10 a month for Paramount+ — it also probably needs them to drop something else. Antenna, a subscription analytics startup, says US consumers subscribed to just 1.5 streaming services in January 2021.
Two years ago, when streaming services still pretty much meant Netflix and Hulu, that number was at 1.25. Which means that even though we’ve seen a slew of services debut recently, most people still aren’t paying for them — and even if they do take out their credit card to sign up, they’re likely to stop paying for them after sampling.
Antenna, which says it uses data sampled from online bill payment services to assess what people are actually spending money on, has laid out the challenge facing ViacomCBS pretty clearly in the data sets below. But the easiest way of summing it up may be this way: (Just about) everyone already has Netflix.
This chart, for instance, tells us that 75 percent of people who newly got Netflix in the first half of 2020 are still paying for the service — a higher survival rate than all of its major streaming competitors. Meanwhile, only 34 percent of new 2020 Apple TV+ subscribers are still paying for the service now. (Antenna data does not include streamers who are getting free services from promotions like Disney’s Verizon bundle, or the free Apple TV+ trial Apple offers customers who buy some Apple hardware, like new iPhones.)
And yes, some people — maybe the people reading this article — really do subscribe to lots of different streaming TV services. But it’s a very small minority.
Meanwhile, Netflix customers were less likely than other streaming subscribers to pay for anything else — which presumably has something to do with the fact that (almost) everyone has Netflix. It’s the streaming starter package: You get it first and then maybe think about adding something else.
The good news for ViacomCBS, in a way, is that people who subscribed to its existing services — CBS All Access, which is getting repurposed into Paramount+, and Showtime — are already more likely to subscribe to something else too.