Netflix binged on an additional 8.5 million paid subscribers over the fourth quarter of 2020. The addition takes its total tally past 200 million for the first time, despite signs growth is now tapering off following a massive pandemic-driven spike.
Citing its ad-free model as a contributing factor behind its success, Netflix total paid memberships increase by 37 million through 2020, a 31% rise from 2019's 28 million.
Netflix gets a taste of the roaring 20s
Netflix was buoyed by the glowing reception for ‘Bridgerton‘ which is on track to become the streaming platform‘s fifth-biggest original show, behind the likes of Stranger Things and The Witcher.
Since its premiere on Christmas, the series is thought to have been seen by 63m households, complementing the success of George Clooney’s sci-fi film The Midnight Sky which stood as the platform‘s largest original film of the quarter.
With Covid-19 continuing to wreak havoc on Hollywood, Netflix has had free rein to hoover up dispossessed audiences, bringing its total subscriber base to 204m with a market capitalisation of $221.7bn.
Aiming to extend this momentum through 2021, Netflix has announced a slate of 70 films to keep its new cohort of subscribers glued to their screens, picking up the slack left by an empty theatrical calendar.
By way of comparison, the world‘s top five film studios could only manage to produce 90 films between them in pre-pandemic times, raising questions around whether Netflix‘s quantity over quality approach will pay off.
The figures are even more impressive for being set against a hike in subscription fees imposed in October, which should help pay for the content provider‘s ever-mounting production bill.
Netflix saw breakneck subscriber growth cool in the third quarter as the return of live sport and mounting competition from alternative providers began to take their toll, notably Disney+.
A model fit for purpose
The arrival of a host of well-funded pretenders to the streaming crown is expected to precipitate a shakeout of the industry, putting pressure on Netflix to consider alternate revenue streams, be that advertising or video on demand.
Netflix has so far dismissed such pressures out of hand, maintaining that its ad-free, one-payment model is the lynchpin of its success.
Chief product officer Greg Peters said: “I would say that we really believe that from a consumer orientation, the simplicity of our ad-free, no additional payments, one subscription is really, really powerful and really, really satisfying to consumers around the world. And so we want to keep emphasising that.“
In a sign of the times, Netflix struck a deal with theatre chain Cinemark to screen its films in a shortened window, potentially opening the floodgates for others such as AMC and Regal to bow to Netflix‘s growing muscle.
Leaving the door open to more tie-ups, Netflix co-chief executive and chief content officer Ted Sarandos said: “We never had an issue with movies going into theatres, it was that you had to commit to this very long window of exclusivity to get access to theatres. That has been the biggest challenge.
“So if those windows are going to collapse, and we have easier access to show our films in theatres, I’d love to have consumers be able to make that choice to be out or see it at home, which has become the norm during Covid-19.“
Any such moves would follow the precedent set by Warner Bros, which is pursuing a new distribution plan in conjunction with HBO Max that will see films premiere simultaneously online and in theatres through 2021.