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Amazon’s efforts to unbundle its Prime video and shipping subscriptions have spurred more viewers to sign up for its streaming video service. eMarketer forecasts that Amazon will add more viewers to its service this year than previously projected. At the same time, eMarketer has adjusted its usage estimates for Netflix and Hulu downward due to a price increase and a change in business model, respectively.
This year, Amazon will have 76.2 million users of its streaming video service, about 3 million more than previously forecast. eMarketer assumes roughly 2.5 viewers for every paid subscription to Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Amazon’s streaming video service is no longer tied only to annual Prime subscriptions; viewers can now purchase a standalone video subscription on a month-to-month basis, which has helped increase user growth. In fact, this year, the user base for Amazon video will grow 16.5%, making it the fastest-growing over-the-top (OTT) service of those covered in the forecast.
“Amazon’s growth in digital video viewers is driven by three factors: the success of its Fire TV streaming devices, the roll-out of a standalone streaming video service, and its increased investment in original content, which the Boston Consulting Group estimates at $3.2 billion this year, second only to Netflix among video platforms,” said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna.
Netflix, meanwhile, still leads the category, with 120.0 million users, although that figure is slightly lower than forecast last year. Netflix is maturing in the US as the service raises its prices. Those factors have contributed to lowered growth projections through 2020, despite its strong Q3 performance.
“Netflix has a larger user base and therefore less room to grow, but it continues to add subscribers in the US and elsewhere thanks to the appeal of its original shows,” said Verna. “The success of these companies, and of the OTT category as a whole, indicates continued momentum for subscription-based, on-demand video.”
eMarketer has adjusted its estimates downward dramatically for the smallest player in the category, Hulu, due to its new business model. It no longer offers a free, ad-supported product. Therefore, eMarketer expects its user base to be cut by more than half, to 30.0 million users this year in the US. A portion of Hulu’s programming will be available for free on Yahoo, which will air delayed episodes of network programs via a partnership with Hulu. In its forecasts of video viewing, eMarketer counts those views as Yahoo viewers, not Hulu viewers. (See editor’s note at end of article.) After this year, eMarketer expects Hulu to grow only slightly through 2020.
So which devices are Americans using to stream their favorite shows? Google Chromecast is the dominant device, due to its low price point. This year, 30.6 million people will use Chromecast, and eMarketer expects it to remain the market leader through 2020, barring any major market upsets.
Apple TV, by contrast, is struggling to grow. Apple TV currently has 20.5 million users in the US, and that figure will grow to just 25.8 million by 2020, leaving it far behind its competitors by the end of the forecast period.
“Apple TV has been saddled by the high cost of the device and its lack of support for content apps from the likes of Amazon and Spotify,” said Verna. “Also, compared with Amazon, Apple has yet to make inroads into original programming. The promise of an Apple ecosystem of content and devices—something it mastered with the iTunes Store a decade ago—has yet to materialize in the fast-growing world of digital television.”
(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to explain the shift of some Hulu programming to Yahoo, and eMarketer’s accounting for projected audience shifts resulting from that change.)
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