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Forecast: 385 Million U.S. Streaming Subscriptions by End of 2021

Ben Bowman

The United States population is roughly 330 million people. By the end of the year, it’s expected America will have more streaming subscriptions than people.

Financial services company UBS estimates that 2021 will be the best-ever year for streaming subscriptions. They forecast 50 million new subscriptions in 2021, up from 47 million added during 2020. It continues an acceleration that saw 43 million subscriptions added in 2019 and 23 million in 2018.

Which services are projected to grow the most?

UBS believes Disney+ and Paramount+will lead the pack with 8 million net additions each. HBO Max and Discovery+ are projected to grow their audiences by 7 million.

It’s worth noting that UBS may be too conservative with those estimates. In 2019, it predicted that Disney+ would grow to 20-30 million subscribers by 2024. That service currently has more than 100 million subscribers. (To be fair, those estimates were in line with Disney’s internal projections.)

How many subscriptions per home?

At the end of 2019, the average U.S. household paid for 2.3 SVOD services. Today, that number is 2.7. By the end of this year, UBS estimates the average home will have at least 3 subscriptions.

There is some concern that we may be reaching a breaking point for monthly streaming cost. If you subscribe to a live streaming service and several on demand services, the cost is likely approaching or surpassing what you might have paid for cable.

Live sports or bust

UBS predicts that some users may churn through services to offset the rising costs, but live sports may convince users to stick with a service longer than they might otherwise.

In the battle for limited entertainment dollars, streaming services are renegotiating sports packages to try to force fans to sign up. The latest NFL deal could be a sign of things to come. Football fans would need to sign up for ESPN+, Amazon Prime Video, and Peacock if they wanted to see every game.

While consumers might prefer a la carte options, those seem unlikely as media companies are caught between rising media costs and more discerning consumers. That said, if you don’t care about sports, it’s far simpler to reduce your streaming budget.

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