Viewers of Good Morning America on Tuesday, they were given a special preview of what could be the biggest Black Friday deal in streaming video: 1 year of Hulu for $0.99 per month, 6 off dollars per month or a discount of 72 dollars for the year.
The fact that Disney will use its signature ABC morning show to launch an offer underscores how important it is to the company to return to growth for its streaming business. In its last quarterly earnings report earlier this month, Disney reported slower-than-expected streaming subscriber growth, with Disney+ adding just 2 million subscribers and Hulu adding just 700,000, bringing the total to 43.8 million.
Hulu’s steep price cut – its biggest since a similar deal on Black Friday in 2018 – underscores the efforts Disney is pursuing as it seeks to reactivate the growth engine.
But Disney isn’t alone in trying to use Black Friday and Cyber Monday to boost streaming subscribers. Several other streaming services, many of which have struggled to grow in the same way as Disney+ and Hulu, are also using this strategy this year.
Like Disney used ABC’s GMA for its Hulu transaction, NBCUniversal used Today show to launch a Black Friday deal on the Peacock streaming service, 50% off Peacock Premium for 6 months (usually $4.99 per month). Recent reports have pegged Peacock’s premium as only paying subscribers in the millions of unique numbers.
Meanwhile, ViacomCBS’s flagship streaming service Paramount+ is offering a free 1-month premium plan (usually $9.99), highlighting access to live NFL games and Star Trek: Discovery to attract potential subscribers. Paramount+ and sister service Showtime have a combined 47 million subscribers, though the company hasn’t broken out by service.
And elsewhere, before a potential sale or sideshow, Starz is offering 6 months for $20 (normally $43.99), Discovery is offering Discovery+ for 0.99 dollars per month for 3 months (usually $4.99), AMC is offering AMC+ for $1.99 per month for one year (usually $8.99).
These massive discounts are all about pursuing the same goal: Bringing in new subscribers at a time when consumers have more streaming options than ever before. While Netflix seems to have become a prerequisite for streaming consumers (and Disney+ isn’t too far behind it in the US), the rest of the landscape remains broken and under-service. At that top, massive subscriber size remains a long-term goal, rather than the status quo.
But discounts can be expensive, and while advertising can (and do) offset lower subscription rates (Hulu’s average revenue per user or ARPU is $12.75 per month even though most most subscribers pay for the base plan), but ultimately it’s a short-term game for scale, not a long-term strategy, as some consumers inevitably give up on services. services they do not use.
A report from Kantar suggests that many consumers are “surfing” services, switching from one service to another to watch a particular show, before canceling and moving on to the next. Kantar’s latest Entertainment On-Demand barometer shows that consumers are more likely to “stack” services, paying for multiple options at once.
The November 11 report said: “The high gain and increase in market share among mature platforms in the third quarter of 2021 suggest that below the surface the market can change rapidly,” reports the 11th. November said. “While we do not anticipate major losses to the overall VOD market in Q4 2021, the subscription market share could continue to shift. The top content retention platforms will determine who wins in this ongoing high-quality market. “
But just as its massive size gives it a huge lead in the global streaming wars, Netflix is also using it to outpace its rivals in another area: Profit margin. The streaming giant doesn’t offer discounts on Black Friday and even ended its free trial in the US last year. That allows its subscription fees to accrue straight to the bottom line.
So while other streaming competitors jostle for subscribers through hefty, albeit limited-time, discounts, Netflix is still struggling with its full pricing. But even as it has seen its growth stall and while it is exploring new areas like games and merchandise to get people in, if the price cuts are right for Hulu and Paramount+, it’s a strategy Netflix might reconsider.