Major streaming services have upped their game in 2022 with the launch of ad-supported tiers, new live sports deals, hugely successful original series and more. As the streaming wars continue to heat up, media companies have no choice but to raise the stakes. From the HBO Max/Discovery+ merged streaming service to Netflix’s password-sharing offering, here’s what SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) streaming services have planned for next year and beyond.
Earlier this year, Discovery acquired WarnerMedia to form Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), becoming one of the biggest media companies in the United States.
As TechCrunch has reported many times, HBO Max and Discovery+ are combining in 2023. This spring, WBD will launch a merged streaming service that pairs HBO originals and Warner Bros. films with Discovery+’s content library of unscripted shows, documentaries and more. In total, subscribers will have access to nearly 200,000 hours of programming and over 100 brands, such as CNN, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Food Network, TLC, HGTV, ID, Animal Planet and many others.
The streaming service will reportedly be called just “Max,” and will make its debut in the U.S. before launching in Latin America and then in Europe in 2024. While there will be an ad-free and ad-supported option, its ad-free offering will likely cost more than what subscribers pay now for HBO Max’s premium plan, which is $14.99/month.
“Max,” or whatever the company decides to call it, will be a major contender in the streaming wars. HBO, HBO Max and Discovery+ ended Q3 2022 with a combined total of 94.9 million global subscribers.
WBD is also busy planning a free ad-supported streaming (FAST) service to keep up with competitors in the FAST market, including Peacock, Pluto TV, Tubi and Amazon Freevee, among others.
Recently, the company pulled over a dozen HBO originals from HBO Max that will soon move to third-party streaming services. This includes “Westworld,” “The Nevers,” “Raised by Wolves,” “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” “Love Life,” “Made for Love,” “Minx,” “Finding Magic Mike,” “Head of the Class,” “FBOY Island,” “Legendary,” “Gordita Chronicles” and “The Garcias.”
We predict that once WBD launches its FAST offering, it will offer these titles.
Netflix had an eventful 2022. The company launched its $6.99/month ad-supported tier, giving consumers the ability to save a few bucks on their streaming habits. The move validates a common trend in the industry right now — ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) is in. In 2023, Netflix’s “Basic with Ads” plan is predicted to have 7.5 million domestic subscribers, according to J.P. Morgan analyst Doug Anmuth.
Netflix’s subscriber base also rebounded in Q3 2022 after increasing by 2.41 million subscribers, bringing the total to 223.09 million. The company previously experienced two bleak quarters, losing a total of 1.2 million global subscribers.
As far as we know, the streamer has three notable projects in the works for 2023 and beyond.
In early 2023, Netflix will launch an “Extra Members” feature to monetize password sharing. The feature will prompt account members to pay an extra fee to add a sub-account for people sharing the streaming service.
The company has already launched a “Profile Transfer” feature, which lets a member on an existing account transfer their profile to a brand-new account and a “Manage Access and Devices” feature, which allows account owners to remotely log out of devices they don’t want to be signed in to the account.
Also coming to the streaming service next year is a livestreaming capability, with Chris Rock to be the first to test the offering for his upcoming comedy special. Live content could help the streamer attract new subs.
Unfortunately, Netflix is not planning to launch a live sports offering. During the UBS Global TMT Conference, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said, “We’ve not seen a profit path to renting big sports.”
Beyond next year, the company is continuing its investment into gaming. At TechCrunch Disrupt 2022, Netflix VP of Gaming Mike Verdu revealed that a cloud gaming offering is on the horizon. This is a smart move for Netflix as the global cloud gaming market had $1.6 billion in revenue in 2021.
Similarly, there’s a possibility that Netflix will get into PC gaming since it’s looking to hire a game director who’ll be in charge of launching a AAA PC game.
Netflix’s mobile gaming library continues to expand. Entering 2023, Netflix will have launched 50 mobile games so far.
Looking back on 2022, Disney+ experienced a lot of major changes, including the launch of its ad-supported tier as well as the unexpected return of Bob Iger as CEO.
The “Disney+ Basic” plan is $7.99/month and was launched in order to give Disney+ more subscribers. The company wants to reach 230-260 million Disney+ subscribers by 2024. In the fourth quarter of 2022, Disney+ reported 164.2 million global subscribers in total.
However, there is one major issue with the ad launch: Disney+ Basic is unavailable on Roku devices. TechCrunch estimates that Disney and Roku will reach an agreement to change that sometime in late 2023 — but that’s just a guess.
Alongside Disney+’s new subscription plan, the streamer introduced changes to the Disney Bundle as well as a price hike to its ad-free plan.
In November 2022, Bob Chapek stepped down as CEO of Disney and was replaced by Bob Iger, the former CEO, who had only vacated the spot in 2021. Hopefully, Iger can help the company achieve profitability by its fiscal 2024. In Q4 2022, when Chapek was still CEO, Disney’s direct-to-consumer division lost $1.5 billion in revenue.
In 2023, Disney+ is planning an international expansion to 30 additional countries, which would bring the total to over 160 countries. Over the summer, the streamer launched in 42 countries and 11 territories.
Also, beginning next year, Disney+ will be the exclusive international home for new “Doctor Who” episodes.
One significant feature coming to the streaming service is an exclusive shopping experience for Disney+ subscribers. The online shop, which is currently in the testing phase, offers users merchandise from Disney-owned brands, such as Star Wars, Marvel, Disney Animation Studios and Pixar. The company is also reportedly exploring the idea of a membership program similar to Amazon Prime. There are no official launch dates for either feature.
Not much happened for the Disney-owned streaming service Hulu this year, apart from annoying price increases and losing titles to rival Peacock. The streamer did however reach a milestone of 58 Emmy nominations. Hulu is also beginning 2023 with 47.2 million subscribers.
If you’ve been following the Disney/Comcast spectacle, then you know that Disney is expected to buy Comcast’s stake in Hulu by the end of 2024. Comcast owns 33%, whereas Disney owns 66%. However, when Chapek was still CEO, he alluded in a Variety interview that Disney could buy the rights sooner than that — perhaps in 2023. This depends on if Comcast “is willing to have discussions that would bring that to fruition earlier,” Chapek said.
Whenever Disney ends up buying Comcast’s stake in Hulu — either by 2023 or 2024 — the company may be planning on merging Hulu with Disney+ and ESPN+. “You know the term soft bundle and hard bundle, right? Soft bundle is, hey, buy all three services for the low price of X. The hard bundle is when things become seamless and without friction. Right now, if you want to go from Hulu to ESPN+ to Disney+, you have to go out of one app to another app. In the future, we may have less friction,” Chapek told Variety.
If Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ were to live inside one platform, many subscribers who already have the Disney Bundle would be overjoyed. While it most likely won’t be a full integration like HBO Max and Discovery+, it will still be an amalgamation of epic proportions. Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ have a combined total of 235.7 million subscribers.
Prime Video had a successful 2022, becoming the exclusive home of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football,” which had its first game watched by 15.3 million viewers, and its “The Lord of the Rings” spinoff was the most-watched series with over 100 million viewers worldwide. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” is confirmed for a second season.
It’s fair to say that Amazon is heavily investing in content and will continue doing so for the next few years. For instance, the streaming service keeps putting money toward live sports. In 2023, the company will be the home of an exclusive NFL Black Friday game, the first Black Friday game for the league.
Amazon may also take a gamble with theatrical movies, according to Bloomberg. The publication wrote that Amazon might begin spending more than $1 billion a year to produce 12 to 15 films that will premiere in theaters before they make their debut on the streaming service. This would be a notable yet expensive gamble for the company, as it has yet to invest this much into original movies.
The streamer has various original series in the pipeline, including the greenlit limited series “Blade Runner 2099,” a “God of War” live-action series and even at least one “Warhammer 40,000” title that will have “Man of Steel” actor Henry Cavill as the lead.
Speaking of DC actors, Amazon is in the process of closing a deal with Warner Bros. to develop animated DC series for Prime Video. At the Content London conference, the Chairman of Warner Bros. Television Group, Channing Dungey, said, “We are in the process of closing a big deal with Amazon that’s going to feature some of our DC branded content in animation.” For HBO Max to share IP, especially DC content, is extremely notable and will likely boost subscription growth for Prime Video.
As more SVOD streaming services shift to AVOD, we wouldn’t be surprised if Prime Video considers launching a cheaper ad-supported tier. It’s possible that such an offering would pay off big for Amazon. It’s estimated that Netflix will see $600 million in advertising sales in 2023 alone.
The move makes sense for Amazon as it already has an ad-supported service, Freevee. Amazon Prime Video is also testing an ad format called virtual product placement, which the company announced in May.
Apple TV+ announced its first foray into live sports this year. We suspect Apple TV+ will keep up with the trend in 2023.
In March 2022, Apple TV+ closed its first live sports deal with Major League Baseball, bringing fans “Friday Night Baseball” games as well as a live show “MLB Big Inning.” The company is launching its subscription service for Major League Soccer fans, “MLS Season Pass” in February 2023.
Like Amazon, rival Apple TV+ would benefit greatly from an ad-supported tier. Apple TV+ recently increased its subscription price to $6.99/month or $69/year.
Paramount+ is ending 2022 with 46 million global subscribers, which was mainly driven by the new partnership with Walmart+, which has a reported 16 million subscribers, as well as offering its premium subscription on The Roku Channel and YouTube. More recently, Paramount+ reported a record number of subscriber sign-ups in November when it premiered its latest hit series “Tulsa King,” starring Sylvester Stallone.
Looking ahead, Paramount+ plans to reach 100 million subs by 2024 and increase streaming content spending to $6 billion, up from $2 billion in 2022. It also has plans to expand international growth, which includes 150 international original titles by 2025.
With the release of high-budget films like “Top Gun: Maverick” and Paramount+ continuing to rely on popular IP, the streamer will likely achieve substantial subscriber growth in 2023. Plus, Paramount+ recently launched an in-app Showtime bundle, giving subscribers access to more content.
That being said, a merger between Paramount+ and Showtime is likely imminent. During Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia + Technology Conference, CEO of Paramount Global, Bob Bakish, confirmed that talks of a merger had taken place internally. While a decision hasn’t been made yet, integrating Showtime into Paramount+ would be the best move for the company.
A price increase is also in the future plans for Paramount+. During the company’s third-quarter earnings call, Paramount Global Executive Vice President and CFO, Naveen Chopra, said that “opportunities to increase price on Paramount+” is to be expected.
Peacock had a big win in 2022 as it doubled its number of paid subscribers to 18 million this year alone. This was mainly thanks to NBC and Bravo next-day episodes that it pulled from Hulu earlier this year. Peacock was also the Spanish-language streaming home for all World Cup games.
In terms of other content coming to the streaming service in 2023, Peacock will premiere the “John Wick” prequel series, “The Continental,” as well as original series like “Poker Face,” starring “Russian Doll” star Natasha Lyonne. The streamer also recently announced its first original adult animation series, “In the Know,” which will feature “Beavis and Butt-Head” creator Mike Judge and “Silicon Valley” actor Zach Woods.
Beginning in 2023, Peacock will be the exclusive streaming partner of JetBlue, marking a notable deal that will broaden its service to more subscribers.
While things are looking up for Peacock next year, some non-paying subscribers might be very disappointed in the next 12 months or later. NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell stated that “at some point” the company wants to convert Xfinity users to paid subscribers of Peacock. This means customers of Comcast’s Xfinity cable and internet services might not be able to get the streaming service as a free perk anymore. However, this move would make sense for Peacock since 30 million monthly active users can access the streaming service at no additional cost.