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The Forecasting Team at eMarketer combs thousands of vetted sources each day to create forward-looking estimates into the future of a company, trend, or industry. Their rigorous process distills the data and contextualizes it for subscribers.
eMarketer’s latest estimates show that Netflix’s share of daily digital video time among US adults reached a peak in 2019 at 27.0%, and will fall for the first time in 2020 to 26.4%.
However, actual time spent will continue to grow: US adults will spend approximately 29 minutes on the streaming platform in 2020, up from 27 minutes last year. These estimates are averaged out for the entire US adult population.
According to eMarketer senior forecasting analyst Oscar Orozco and eMarketer analyst Ross Benes, the projected dip is influenced by two opposing forces.
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Daily time spent on Netflix will continue to grow due to heavy investment in original content, content acquisitions, and personalization of the platform. Netflix’s content investment is expected to reach $17 billion in 2020 with most of that going to originals, per BMO Capital Markets. This will go toward building a broad and deep content catalogue capable of meeting diverse audience preferences. And strong investments in AI and machine learning will drive improvements in content discovery.
But its share of daily digital video time spent will decline as the US market crowds with major new streaming services. As new services come to market, consumers will spend more time consuming digital video content on average. By July 2020, four major streaming entrants will have come to market in the US: Apple TV+, Disney+, AT&T’s HBO Max, and Peacock. Additionally, Quibi — the mobile-first SVOD offering — is set to launch in April.
Despite this decrease in share of daily digital video time, Netflix is likely to remain the dominant streaming video platform in the US in terms of time spent. Daily time spent on Netflix surpassed daily time spent on YouTube in 2018 among the general US population, and this will continue to be the case through 2021, according to the same eMarketer forecast.
For now, subscriber additions are key to the company’s growth because subscription fees are its only reported revenue source, and maintaining a meaningful portion of consumers’ time spent is essential to retaining them. As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said last November, “The real measurement [of relevance] will be time — how do consumers vote with their evenings?” As long as Netflix can maintain its No. 1 most-watched status, subscribers are likely to keep finding value in the service.
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