Jan 16, 2019 - Technology

The campaign to dethrone Netflix

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Everyone wants a piece of the $19 billion U.S. subscription video market that Netflix created, then cornered.

The big picture: Netflix has already reached saturation in the U.S. with nearly 60 million domestic subscribers, and it can't afford to lose customers to new streaming rivals.

  • NBC plans to launch a streaming service next year.
  • AT&T (with WarnerMedia) and Disney (with 21st Century Fox) both plan to launch similar subscription video services this year.
  • Hulu now has more subscribers (25 million) than Comcast, the biggest cable company in the U.S.
  • And don't forget Amazon Prime, which has been the biggest Netflix competitor to date.

Between the lines: Many of the networks involved in rival services have begun pulling back on licensing their content to Netflix, promoting exclusivity to their own content instead.

  • This is why AT&T said last year that it will only license "Friends" to Netflix for a year before it can decide whether it wants to launch it exclusively on its own services.

It's also why Netflix is pouring billions into creating more of its own original content series for TV:

  • The new hit "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo"
  • Hyper-localized content series like "Sacred Games" in India
  • Movies like the viral sensation "Bird Box"

Yes, but: Netflix may have an even bigger headache to deal with: free competition.

  • Digital streaming TV companies that don't charge people for access are rising as consumers face saturated budgets for subscription content.
  • Services with ad-supported channels or tiers, like Roku and Hulu, are booming.
  • And pay-TV companies like AT&T, Dish and now Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal) are giving subscribers access to new streaming video services for free.

What's next: The company reports earnings for Q4 tomorrow. Analysts seem bullish that Netflix will announce record subscriber growth.

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