Ranking the Winners in the Streaming Wars, by Revenue and Subscribers

10 March 2023

The streaming wars used to be all about subscriber totals. Still important, but revenue is rising on the list of executive priorities — especially for the services that haven’t yet turned a profit. (Which is to say, most of them.)

With that new topline metric top of mind, we’ve ranked the major streamers by last quarter’s revenue and included their most up-to-date subscriber tallies. It should come as no surprise that More Subscribers = More Money, but they don’t always go in lockstep. And yes, we know not every quarter is created equally for every streamer, but it’s the latest data we’ve got to go on.

IndieWire ranked the streamers from smallest to largest below, with a pair of honorable mentions at the end. One is a very significant player with very vague financial reporting.

Peacock

Revenue: #6
Subscribers: #6

With a strong final quarter, Peacock finally crossed 20 million subscribers at the end of 2022 — but it came at a price.

For starters, there was the $978 million loss in Q4’s adjusted EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization). Across all of 2022, Peacock absorbed a $2.5 billion loss. And 2023 is expected to be the service’s peak loss year; Comcast president Michael Kavanaugh said he plans to lose about $3 billion from Peacock this year.

Peacock’s fourth-quarter revenue was $660 million, not nearly enough to flip to profitability. Peacock had a free tier, which NBCU recently scrapped (that was always part of the plan, IndieWire is told).

Dana Delany as Margaret and Sylvester Stallone as Dwight Manfredi in Paramount+ original “Tulsa King”

Brian Douglas/Paramount+

Paramount+

Revenue: #5
Subscribers: 4

Paramount+ is coming off its best quarter for adding subscribers since its launch. The Paramount Global core streaming service added 9.9 million subs, reaching “nearly” 56 million in Q4. With Showtime OTT and some other niche services, Paramount’s overall global DTC sub-count crossed 77 million. (FAST service Pluto TV saw its monthly active users — MAUs — reach “nearly” 79 million.)

There’s a whole lot going on with Paramount+ and Showtime right now. In September, the linear Showtime channel and the highest-priced Paramount+ tier will be rebranded as “Paramount+ with Showtime.” The streaming plan’s price will go up by $2 per month; Showtime’s own OTT service will be shuttered.

Showtime programming isn’t going anywhere — it’s a franchise frenzy over there, with multiple spinoffs for “Billions” and “Dexter.” It also sounds like “Ray Donovan” and “Tulsa King” might get a similar treatment. And why not? It sure worked for “Yellowstone.”

Paramount Global’s direct-to-consumer revenue was $1.396 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022.

HBO Max/Discovery+

Revenue: #4
Subscribers: #3

OK, so Warner Bros. Discovery is still working on combining HBO Max and Discovery+ (though it also intends to keep a standalone Discovery+), but we’ll combine them here like WBD does for its financial reporting. The company is hosting a big event to roll out the combined service, still untitled and unpriced, on April 12.

Anyway, the company added 1.1 million direct-to-consumer subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2022, bringing the total — which includes linear HBO — to 96.1 million. The DTC business recorded a $217 million loss in Q4, a relatively small portion of the bath WBD took on its spreadsheets in Q4. Hey, mergers are costly.

Warner Bros. Discovery’s direct-to-consumer revenue was $2.451 billion.

Warner Bros. Discovery plans to launch its own FAST (free, ad-supported streaming television) in the future. The company has already licensed a bunch of its programming, including “Westworld,” to launch branded FAST channels at Tubi and The Roku Channel.

Disney+

Revenue: #3
Subscribers: #2

All-in, The Walt Disney controlled 235.7 million streaming subscriptions at the end of calendar 2022, which is technically the company first fiscal quarter of 2023.

They break down like this:
Disney+ (core): 102.9 million
Disney+ Hotstar: 61.3 million
ESPN+: 24.3 million
Total Hulu, as above: 47.2 million

Technically, that’s 4.95 million more subs than Netflix had as of New Year’s Eve. There are asterisks here, however, like the crossover between Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu for subscribers to the discounted Disney Bundle. And of course the clear fact that we’re combining four services here to reach the overall number. Finally, let’s not forget that Disney does not yet own Hulu outright, just a majority share, and possibly may not have it at all come next year. (But probably will.)

Disney+ with ads launched in the U.S. on December 8. The Disney direct-to-consumer revenue in the October-to-December quarter was $4.907 billion; minus Hulu math it’s around $2.1-$2.3 billion for Disney+, Hotstar, and ESPN+.

Hulu

Revenue: #2
Subscribers: #5

Hulu’s 47.2 million paid subscribers at the end of December break down to 42.8 million from SVOD-only, with 4.4 million for its Live TV + SVOD (subscription video on-demand) option.

The attractive thing about Hulu is its ARPU, or average revenue per user. Hulu makes an average of $12.23 per SVOD sub, per month. With the pricey Live TV package, a replacement for a traditional cable subscription, the ARPU skyrockets to $86.77. Compare those numbers with the Disney+ ARPU of $5.96, ESPN+ at $4.84, and Disney+ Hotstar at a lowly 58 cents per user.

Here’s our math:
$12.46 SVOD ARPU x 43.5 million subs = $542.01 million per month last quarter
$87.90 SVOD+Live TV ARPU x 4.5 million subs = $395.55 million per month last quarter
$542.01 million + $395.55 million = $937.56 million per month last quarter
$937.56 million per month x 3 months = $2.813 billion in revenue last quarter

Another cool Hulu point: It and Netflix are the only profitable major streaming services. Some small ones, like BritBox and Crunchyroll, may also be profitable — but since they do not report financials, we can only guess.

Currently, Disney owns a two-thirds stake in Hulu, with Comcast holding the remaining third. Under terms from a May 2019 agreement, Comcast can require Disney to buy out the remaining stake as early as January 2024 with a guaranteed a minimum total equity value of $27.5 billion. That means Comcast stands to gain $9.17 billion from the deal. Alternatively, Comcast can buy out Disney’s two-thirds for an even heftier sum — or, they can take Hulu to auction.

Natalia Dyer as Nancy Wheeler in Netflix’s “Stranger Things”

Tina Rowden/Netflix

1. Netflix

Revenue: #1
Subscribers: #1

Netflix is still considered the king of streaming, though Disney (above) and Amazon (our sleeper below) could both make counterclaims.

Netflix ended 2022 with 230.75 million global paid subscribers, up nearly eight million from one quarter earlier. The service launched its “Basic with Ads” plan in several large markets, including the U.S., during the quarter. Also helping? “Wednesday,” which became Netflix’s third most-popular series ever.

Revenue in Q4 was $7.852 billion, the best in the business, though it was up just 1.9 percent and net income was *just* $55 million.

Count Netflix among the services no longer providing forecasts for future subscriber growth (or God forbid, decline again). Netflix does still share internal estimates for its “primary top line metric,” revenue, which has growing 3.9 percent in the current quarter.

Unknown: Amazon Prime Video

In 2021, Amazon revealed via a shareholder letter it had more than 200 million Prime members. In early 2022, Amazon revealed that more than 200 million Prime members worldwide streamed its shows and movies during the previous year. That is the latest subscriber update — and Prime Video-usage update — we’ve gotten.

Of course, the real value draw for most Prime members is still the e-commerce giant’s free, two-day shipping. We do know that the vast majority of Prime members do at least sample — if not use — Prime Video. It’s among the most popular Prime services/benefits.

Much like the subscribers thing, Amazon does not break out revenue numbers for Prime Video. Beyond video advertising, it would be somewhere between hard and impossible to accurately assign a portion of Prime revenue to Prime Video anyway. At least, not for this non-CPA.

Amazon’s FAST service, Freevee, would be easier to break out — but they don’t do that either.

Unknown: Apple TV+

Similar to Amazon Prime Video, we don’t have a ton to go on with Apple TV+. Subs are not reported, revenue is not assigned. (Apple’s overall services revenue in the December quarter was $20.8 billion, a record.)

Here’s what we do know: In fall 2021, to save on production costs, Apple leaned on a condition inside of a clause inside of an industry-wide contract with entertainment-union IATSE. The largest company in the world (by market cap) told the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees its Apple TV+ streaming service had fewer than 20 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada as of that July. Per a prior agreement, that allowed a studio to pay a discounted rate to production-crew members in the union. Fellow nascent streamers Paramount+ and Peacock also took advantage of the lower tier at the time.

By July 2022 (these measurements/disclosures are timed to July), all major streamers agreed to pay IATSE workers the higher of the two rates, two people with knowledge of those negotiations told IndieWire.

Apple recently launched a Major League Soccer (MLS) streaming package; it can be subscribed to as a standalone or tacked on to Apple TV+. Of note: Apple TV+ is the last major streamer standing without an ad-supported plan.

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