Global Streaming Subscriptions Pass 1 Billion

Streaming platforms
(Image credit: Ranker)

WASHINGTON—A good chunk of people around the world reacted to a year of stay-at-home and quarantine orders by signing up for streaming services, resulting in the total number of online video subscriptions jumping to 1.1 billion at the end of 2020, according to the Motion Picture Association’s annual THEME report.

MPA’s categorization of online video subscriptions specifically refers to streaming services, like Netflix and Disney+. In 2020, 232.1 million new subscriptions were added across the world, a 26% increase from 2019. Meanwhile, cable subscriptions decreased by 2% in 2020, dropping to 530.7 million globally.

In terms of revenue, the pay-TV subscription market, which excludes online video in the MPA report, was $233.1 billion. Despite a decrease in subscriptions, cable actually grew its revenue by $871.4 million to $111.6 billion, keeping it as the largest subscription video market. Online video is the third largest subscription market and increased $14.3 billion (34%) in 2020.

When looking specifically at the U.S., online video subscriptions shot up to 308.6 million, an increase of 32%. Virtual pay-TV subscriptions also saw an increase, adding 12.1 million subscriptions in 2020, up 29%. Cable and satellite subscriptions both declined.

However, like the global market, cable remains the largest subscription market in terms of revenue in the U.S. Despite about a 4% decrease in subscriptions, cable’s 2020 revenue was actually on par with 2019, netting $50.8 billion. Satellite, the second largest, did see a drop in revenue, however. As a result, online video’s increase of $24.7 billion (up 35%) let it inch closer to satellite’s number two spot in the U.S. market.

MPA also reported that the amount of time for U.S. adults watching TV (live or recorded) increased for the first time since 2012, with viewing times growing by seven minutes to an average of three hours and 34 minutes. That was even higher for OTT video, increasing 71.8 minutes (up 34%), the first time MPA reported it exceeding one hour.

Approximately 80% of U.S. adults watched shows/series or movies via traditional TV services or online subscription services in 2020, the highest ever mark, according to MPA. More people reported watching TV programming via pay-TV every day (24%) than any other format, though online subscription outpaced those who said they watched TV programming “several times a week” (26% vs. 22%).

All viewing methods saw increased viewing time by U.S. adults during the pandemic, but the largest was for online video services, with 55% of adults saying their viewing time increased, a 46% growth. Pay-TV grew 36%, with 46% of adults reporting increased viewing time.

For the full 2020 THEME Report, visit MPA’s website