The Strikes May Have Helped Streaming

The writers and actors strikes were bad for consumers (and other businesses), but as it turns out, good for streaming.

In the final quarter of 2023, the one in which the SAG-AFTRA strike finally came to an end (the WGA strike ended days before Q4 began), streaming’s penetration of U.S. households jumped to 85 percent, according to new data from market researcher HarrisX. After a decline in Q3 (from 83 percent to 82 percent), the media analysts at MoffettNathanson assumed that everyone who wanted streaming had streaming. Weren’t they surprised.

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Though the category leaders (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu) set the pace, it was the smaller-scaled streamers (Paramount+, Max, Discovery+, and Peacock) that actually made the most progress (on a percentage basis). And then there was Apple TV+, the lone streaming platform that went backward.

In hindsight, some of the momentum is easily explainable. Black Friday streaming deals, generally for ad-supported plans, probably pitched in a bit. As did the continued impact of Netflix’s password-sharing crackdown. Netflix, after all, carries the most weight of the bunch — and its paid-sharing program is still ramping up.

But it’s not necessarily new.

Newer was the impact of the dual Hollywood strikes, which shuttered all TV and film production and clogged entertainment’s development-to-release pipeline. That content-launch delay likely “forced more consumers to cut the cord and seek more cost-attractive entertainment options,” MoffettNathanson wrote in a Monday report obtained by IndieWire. Nothing will make one reconsider their cable-TV bill like all reruns all the time.

It’s understandable, but with just one notable problem: streaming prices have been on the rise this whole time. The typical streaming household subscribes to four services (and they almost all begin their streaming journey with Netflix). It feels like college-level calculus figuring out if an internet-only package plus four streaming subscriptions could actually save you money.

Half of Americans are willing to try. Of HarrisX’s 23,000 survey respondents, exactly 50 percent (up from 49 percent) said they are streaming-only (no linear television) — the first time we’ve seen that number. Thirty-five percent (up from 33 percent) of U.S. households have both, which leaves 15 percent (down from 18 percent) sticking exclusively with linear. Tell your mom it’s time.

In Q4 2023, 85 percent of U.S. households had at least one streaming service. Credit: MoffettNathanson/HarrisX
In Q4 2023, 85 percent of U.S. households had at least one streaming service. Credit: MoffettNathanson/HarrisX

Netflix will report its fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, which is when we’ll get an update on the league-leader’s latest subscriber numbers. MoffettNathanson believes Netflix will report an addition of 10 million subs in Q4, with two million of those coming from the U.S. and Canada.

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