• Kirby Grines

Top Video Subscription Services in the U.S. through Q1 2018

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

OTT video is blowing up in the United States, and the latest research from Parks Associates only puts an exclamation point on how we Americans consume video. The report finds users watching OTT services on their TVs for an average of 4.2 hours per week, which is at least 50% more than web and mobile - indicating most people would actually prefer to watch TV on a TV...go figure. The latest estimates also indicate that nearly 40% of U.S. broadband households now have at least two OTT video service subscriptions.

Led by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, the top US subscription video services generated close to $15 billion in monthly fees alone in 2017. Let that sink in-- $15 billion…. monthly. UBS is increasing its outlook for streaming TV services such as Sling TV and DirecTV Now, estimating that such services will make up 25% of the pay-TV market in five years. Despite the growth of streaming TV services, they actually anticipate total pay-TV subscriptions to decline by 1.6% over the next five years.

With more than 200 OTT services in the U.S. today, competition for subscribers is more fierce than ever. Not only are these services competing with one another, but companies from telecommunications to social media to technology to retail are getting in to streaming content. Because of this, Parks is predicting that 2018 may be the year that some of these OTT services begin to fold under the pressure.

So who is currently winning this race? What services are we watching most?

Courtesy of S&P Global Market Intelligence, these are the top OTT subscription services through Q1 2018 along with their estimated number of US subscribers, in millions.

Netflix leading the pack (with an insane 55.1 million subs) shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Really, the list in its entirety isn’t much different from what we saw last year-- the same key players top the chart, and there is little movement in their rankings. Showtime surpassed Optimum, and WWE exceeded Suddenlink Communications in subscribers. Virtual multichannel players enjoyed some of the strongest growth, with DIRECTV NOW up 27% compared to year-end 2017 and rising 332.7% in the past year. Only two other OTT players had double-digit growth in Q1: WWE Network grew by 11.7%, and Cinemax by 10.9%.

What the chart above fails to really account for is the force that is Amazon Prime TV. eMarketer estimates Amazon’s 2017 subscribers to be in the vicinity of 26M which would firmly put them in 2nd place. They are still far behind Netflix, but if there is anyone who can keep Netflix on their toes, it is Amazon. We have seen what Amazon has done to retailers, large and small, and they should certainly not be underestimated as a threat in the TV space either, as I alluded to in my article “What Programmers Can Learn From the Fall of Toys “R” Us”.

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