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New estimates show Disney spends more on content than Netflix

Data: MoffettNathanson presentation from Code Media Conference; Chart: Axios Visuals

Michael Nathanson, a well-respected media research analyst, said Monday at Recode's Code Media conference that he estimates that Disney spends the most on content annually, followed by Comcast and AT&T.

Why it matters: There's been a long-standing narrative that Netflix spends more money on content than its streaming rivals, but the MoffettNathanson estimates revealed at the conference dispute that notion.

Other insights: The data Nathanson presented (see above) shows the amount of money spent on content other than sports — but Nathanson argues that sports are a big outlier that could disrupt a streaming bundle.

  • "Half of the bundle price is due to sports," Nathanson said. "We've been waiting for one of the [Big Tech] platforms to really invest in streaming sports."
  • Nathanson argues that the power of sports, given live ratings, remains pretty stable. He says he's waiting for a Big Tech company to come in and really invest in live sports rights to truly disrupt the streaming landscape. "I don't understand why companies with massive checkbooks don't sign up for premium sports."

Yes, but: Nathanson does acknowledge that in order for streamers to be successful, they have to pick lanes. "You can't be all things to all people. ... I think what we're seeing right now is this giant land grab."

The big picture: Nathanson says that the average American is willing to spend around $45 per month on subscription streaming services, which is similar to broadcast analytics company Magid's earlier estimate this year of $42 monthly.

  • He says that this means those services "really can't raise prices" much more on consumers if they want to stay competitive.

What's next: Nathanson also presented data showing that the spending surge on content isn't expected to slow down anytime soon. He estimates that by 2023, Disney will spend about $24.3 billion on content, AT&T will spend $16.3 billion and Netflix will spend $15.7 billion.

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