If you’ve been following Netflix lately, you know that the streamer is on shaky ground right now. Antenna data shows that Netflix canceled 3.6 million subscriptions in the first quarter of 2022, more than a million more than the company experienced in the first quarter of 2021 and the fourth quarter of 2021. This is a key indicator that Netflix is about to is about to lose its top spot in the streaming battle.
While Netflix’s demise has sparked speculation about whether the SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) industry has peaked and is starting a downward trend, new aerial data supports the contrary.
Antenna found that US subscriptions in the Premium SVOD category grew +4.0% quarter-over-quarter and +24.7% year-over-year. The research also shows that there were 37.4 million new gross SVOD customers and a loss of 29.8 million subscribers, leaving only 7.7 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2022.
The number of 37.4 is consistent with the past two quarters, but significantly higher than in 2019 (before Covid-19). Growth was largely due to the fledgling services Peacock and Paramount+, which together have added 6.1 million or more U.S. subscribers.
By comparison, in 2019, when the market was dominated by Netflix and Hulu (services like Disney+, Peacock, and HBO Max did not yet exist), there were a total of 10.3 million subscriptions in the first quarter of the year. The massive increase represents a compound annual growth rate of 54% over three years.
While subscriber growth may be high right now, so are cancellations. There were just under 30 million cancellations in the first quarter of 2022, which is 12% higher than any quarter in history, or 4.5 times the cancellation volume from three years earlier, Antenna said.
The cancellations may not be anything to worry about as the new subscriber additions indicate consumers are jumping around — otherwise known as churn and return. Paramount+, Peacock and Disney+ accounted for 51% of all new signups in the quarter. In addition, the three mentioned services made up a large portion of the new signups for the churned Q1 2022 Netflix users.
Peter Fondulas, director at Hub, declaredNetflix’s subscriber loss in the first quarter of 2022, and expected losses in the following quarters, represent a small fraction of the global subscriber base. And at some point, a service as ubiquitous as Netflix only has so much room left to grow. In our opinion, it would be a grave mistake to view the Netflix experience as a sign that streaming TV services are about to decline, as some analysts have suggested. The appeal of buzzworthy exclusive content and the sheer convenience of on-demand viewing are two powerful forces that should ensure that these services continue to grow, at least in the short term.”
In the first quarter of 2022, Netflix reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers, marking its first subscriber loss in more than a decade. The decline brought Netflix’s subscriber base to 221.6 million, up from 221.8 million in the previous quarter. The losses are only set to continue, according to Netflix’s forecasts, and the streamer is expected to lose 2 million in the second quarter.
Since Netflix raised prices on all of its subscription tiers domestically in January 2022, there has been a quantum leap in subscription cancellations. Netflix’s active monthly customer churn in the US was just over 2% in January 2019, after subscription prices rose.
Further, Antenna Data shows that Netflix’s active monthly churn increased +0.95 points month-over-month in January 2022, where a price increase led to 3% active monthly churn. At the end of March, Netflix’s active monthly churn was 3.3%. This suggests that Netflix’s upcoming cheaper ad-supported tier is the company’s plan to minimize customer churn.
All this data shows how volatile the streaming market is. It’s hard to predict which service will be next, but established streamers like Netflix need to be sharp and devise new strategies to attract new subscribers.