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Disney, Roku Celebrate National Streaming Day

Disney National Streaming Day Baby Yoda
(Image credit: Disney)

LOS ANGELES—The May 20 National Streaming Day celebrations have encouraged some major streaming players to launch new content or offer discounted gear, as well as some ongoing reflections on the future of technology in the media industries as advertisers continue to shift spending to streaming platforms. 

This year, Roku has marked the day with discounts on some of its streaming players and the debut of Roku Originals to its lineup of more than 40,000 free movies and TV programs on the Roku Channel. 

Disney, meanwhile, rolled out a full day of activities on Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu that included sneak peeks at upcoming content.

Disney kicked off the celebration with the deployment of more than 200 drones over the night sky in Los Angeles. 

The drones formed characters and imagery from the three streamers, including displays of Grogu from “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, Captain America’s shield from “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” on Disney+, wings from “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu, and an MLB baseball for ESPN+. 

While the creation of a National Streaming Day has become a reliable excuse for marketing stunts, the day also marks a technology that has had massive financial implications for the TV industry.  

Since 2014, when National Streaming Day was first celebrated, pay-TV subscribers have declined from over 100 million in 2014 to about 86 million at the end of 2020, according to the big media buying firm Magna. 

Meanwhile, streaming players have dramatically increased their clout. Roku for example has seen its active accounts jump from 15.1 million accounts at the end of Q2 in 2017 to 53.6 million in the first quarter of 2021.

This is also fueling a massive shift in ad dollars. In 2014, Magna placed total TV advertising at about $66.1 billion compared to $18.3 billion for digital; this year, Magna estimates that the total TV ad spend will be $53.1 billion compared to $73.5 billion for digital. 

Last week, in the run-up to the upfronts, Nielsen posted a video noting that connected TV ad spend is expected to reach $6.73 billion (up 54% from 2020) in 2021 and that 60% of U.S. advertisers are planning to shift ad dollars from linear TV to either CTV or OTT (over-the-top) in 2021. 

All of which makes the placement of National Streaming Day during the upfronts particularly notable.