After reporting the biggest quarter in its history with 8.3 million new global subscribers – as well as leapfrogging BBC iPlayer to third in a list of the top UK brands – everybody seems to be getting their fix of Netflix. The streaming service is riding high on YouGov’s Brand Index with a Buzz score of 14, pushing iPlayer into fourth and leave it trailing discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl.
However, it’s not been all doom-and-gloom for iPlayer, which enjoyed a record week between Christmas and New Year as viewers turned off their traditional television channels in place of its on-demand streaming service. The 69.2m requests to watch programmes on iPlayer between December 25th and 31st 2017 ushered in a pulsating year-on-year increase of 18% [Source: The Guardian].
Television has always been synonymous with Christmas but now, with the power of on-demand services such as Netflix, the BBC has been forced to rethink its portfolio accordingly. The broadcaster now offers up popular programmes such as Blue Planet, Peaky Blinders and Line of Duty within its archives. Although it still trails Netflix’s 132 exclusive shows in 2017, which included hits such as the second series of The Crown and Stranger Things and the launches of new critical successes like Dark and Mindhunter, the BBC is fast playing catch-up. In contrast, Amazon is finding its streaming service has hit a plateau, with BARB reporting the service had stopped growing in the third quarter of last year, just shy of 4m subscribers.
Sky, on the other hand, has begun fighting back, launching a low-cost plug-in stick set for release in February. Mimicking Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, it will provide access to films, television shows and live sport on any TV set, providing a cheaper and more flexible way of watching Sky. It represents a continuation of the broadcaster’s desire to go beyond its traditional focus on long-term contracts for its satellite TV packages. Moreover it is cheaper than the competition. Priced at £14.99 for the smart stick and remote, the user has the choice to buy a Now TV day or week pass, unlike Netflix and Amazon which cost less than £10 every month. Value and flexibility speak to viewers.
As well as increasing marketing spend and promotion for Now TV, Sky has also unveiled a broadband TV service that will allow customers who do want its full TV service to do so without the need for a satellite dish.
But there are some warning shots for advertisers, should its rise continue. Co-founder and chief executive of Netflix, Reed Hastings, stated that keeping its platform commercial-free is its key differentiator from competitors – a hammer-blow to advertisers hoping to capitalise upon the strength of the platform.
“We are having great success on the commercial-free path. That is what our brand is all about. So we’re going to continue to expand the relevance of a commercial-free service around the world and make that so popular that consumers are very used to and appreciate Netflix,” said Hastings.
With a third of British households now paying for a TV streaming service [BARB] and Netflix leading the way, competitors, as well as the UK television industry, must once again raise the bar to compete with the extensive funding available for programming with international appeal. While the first set of the year may have gone to Netflix, the ball is still firmly in the court of TV and its on-demand streaming services.