2022 in Review: Streaming Video NewsDecember 15, 2022
It’s been a complicated year for video streaming. The pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021 spurred its meteoric rise when people forced to stay at home turned to live, VOD, and gaming content to occupy their time. This period also resulted in dozens of companies launching their own streaming services, pulling consumers in multiple directions and requiring them to subscribe to a handful of platforms to watch the content they previously had access to on just one or two.
As a result, many consumers have subscription fatigue and are cutting back the same way they once “cord-cut” when streaming first gained prominence. The industry is adapting, so 2022 entailed lots of growing pains with the rise of FAST channels, high-profile mergers and acquisitions, and other significant changes. Plus, B2C and B2B companies have been jumping on the streaming bandwagon more than ever, many leveraging video providers to build their own solutions and reach broader audiences.
2023 will be a big year for video, so let’s reflect on 2022 with some of the biggest streaming news that shifted the landscape.
Table of Contents
Streaming Surpasses Cable TV
This news was exciting for the industry: Streaming video surpassed cable TV for the first time in history in terms of viewership minutes. Nielsen reports that streaming accounted for 34.8% of total television consumption while cable and broadcast TV were responsible for a respective 34.4% and 21.6%.
The largest contributor to streaming overcoming its competitors is Netflix — which holds the largest share of TV viewing amongst the streaming giants — experiencing 18 billion viewing minutes in July. Much of this was due to the latest season of Stranger Things, as well as 11 billion more minutes from series like The Umbrella Academy and Virgin River.
No one has underestimated streaming as a major player in a long time, but this news hints at a major shift in the overall TV industry’s future. The content distributed on OTT platforms now measures up to that of broadcast and cable, so we can soon expect pushback from the latter trying to reclaim their market share.
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Streaming Giants Struggle with Subscribership and Losses
Despite Netflix’s success in viewership minutes, streaming giants actually struggled with acquiring and maintaining subscribers this year. Netflix lost a net 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022, plunging its stock by 35% overnight. The company announced layoffs in an attempt to cut costs. This decrease marked its first-ever net loss in subscription growth since going public, though it should still end the year on a positive financial note (possibly thanks to new shows like Wednesday, which beat even Stranger Things for English-language viewership hours during a series’ first week).
Disney+ surpassed Netflix in terms of subscription growth. However, the company dealt with a significant amount of internal turmoil that harmed its revenue; sources report that investors were displeased with mismanagement and overspending that resulted in a $1.5 billion loss. Disney’s CEO, Bob Chapek, was let go late in the year and was replaced by the company’s former leader making a return, Bob Iger.
Some new streaming platforms failed outright. Warner-Bros.-Discovery (we’ll address this big merger later) attempted to launch a streaming version of CNN, creatively called CNN+, but the company didn’t account for subscription fatigue and the platform never gained traction.
Amazon Prime, on the other hand, seemed to fare well. The company still hides its subscriber numbers but released the most expensive TV series ever produced, The Rings of Power, and boosted its overall production budget to $15 billion.
Growth of FAST and Ad-Supported Tiers
Free Ad-Supported Television (FAST) has experienced a tremendous year. NScreenMedia reports that FAST viewership doubled between 2019 and 2021 and grew further in 2022. The overall industry is expected to reach $4 billion in revenue by the end of the year and the market leader, Pluto TV, will likely surpass $1 billion.
Why the tremendous growth? FAST is a combination of streaming and classic linear TV channels. Consumers who prefer “lean-back” viewing, meaning the ability to watch something that happens to be airing instead of spending time selecting a VOD title, see FAST as a happy and much cheaper medium.
It seems that TV viewers don’t mind sitting through ads if it saves them a few dollars a month — and big companies have already noticed. Comcast, Fox, and CBS own the most prominent FAST platforms available, namely Xumo, Tubi, and Pluto TV, respectively. Hybrid models are becoming increasingly common. Some streaming giants once prided themselves on providing an ad-free experience, but several of them now offer less expensive ad-supported tiers. Hulu’s ad-supported plan has been around for a long time, but Peacock, Disney+, and even Netflix have launched cheaper plans for consumers who don’t mind paying with their time for less money.
Major Mergers and Acquisitions
2022 has also witnessed significant mergers and acquisitions amongst major streaming companies. Perhaps the biggest of all was Discovery acquiring WarnerMedia for a whopping $43 billion in April. The company, now Warner Bros. Discovery, encompasses platforms and channels including, but not limited to, CNN, DC, HBO, Animal Planet, the Food Network, TNT, TBS, the Travel Channel, New Line Cinema, Cartoon Network, the Travel Channel, and more. This acquisition created a lot of industry-shaking tremors that affected consumers directly with the removal of many titles from Discovery’s and WB’s extensive libraries in an attempt to save money. It even scrapped high-profile projects that hadn’t been released, such as Batgirl.
Amazon also acquired the famous MGM studios for $8.5 billion, granting Amazon the rights to stream MGM’s 4,000 movies and 17,000 TV series. On the video game side, Take-Two acquired Zynga for $12 billion and Microsoft announced its intention to acquire Activision Blizzard for an enormous $75 billion. These deals will undoubtedly mark significant changes for gamers, one of the most likely being Microsoft able to dramatically accelerate metaverse projects and the Xbox ecosystem.
It was a big M&A year for streaming providers, too. Besides streaming giants that offer entertainment content, B2B video companies started merging to better help organizations that want to offer unique branded streaming experiences. For example:
- Telestream bought encoding.com
- Dolby absorbed Millicast
- Verbit acquired Vitac
- Edgecast is now part of Limelight
- 3play Media bought Captionmax
And late last year, Vimeo bought Wirewax, Mux acquired StreamClub, and Edisn.ai became part of Fubo.
A notable one is also Wowza’s acquisition of Flowplayer. With Flowplayer’s versatile HTML5 player part of Wowza’s cloud and software-based products, Wowza solidifies its status as one of the few truly glass-to-glass video providers in the industry, offering capabilities from encoding and transcoding all the way to viewer playback for both live and VOD streams.
Interactive Video Projects Struggle to Find the Right Market Fit
Interestingly, interactive streaming projects met challenges this year. For example, many consumers and investors find the metaverse concept intriguing, but issues with technology, accessibility, and marketing have prevented it from revolutionizing the market the way tech enthusiasts imagined it would. Meta’s vision for interconnected metaverses (there is no singular metaverse; rather, a multitude of companies run isolated metaverse projects) will likely take at least a decade to come to fruition, and its own project, Reality Labs, ended disastrously and cost the company $10 billion.
Google also scrapped its Stadia project. Stadia promised a genuinely exciting idea — streaming games to mobile devices the way you can stream video without needing to download anything or use a gaming console — but the company failed to market it wisely and never found a business model that worked for the product.
Both Meta and Google’s endeavors are examples of large companies not understanding what consumers want and how to make it happen. These failures don’t mean interactive video and the metaverse won’t catch on, though. Extended reality projects from smaller companies are massive hits (just look at Pokémon Go). So interactive video is still anyone’s for the taking, and the secret to it may not lie with tech corporations overeager to invest in whatever they think of first.
2022 Streaming in Review
Streaming video is only growing, so 2022 experienced a great deal of expansion. As the industry tries to understand what consumers want and provide new opportunities, it opens the door for innovation in some respects (such as developments in WebRTC deployment and ad-supported tiers) while teetering on undoing itself in others (like subscription fatigue and overzealous production spending). Some even say that the Peak TV era is ending, so it will be interesting to see what 2023 brings and how the overall streaming industry, both in entertainment and business, adapts.