The MPAA says streaming video has surpassed cable subscriptions worldwide

By Andrew Liptak

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) reported today that the world’s entertainment market — encompassing both theatrical and home releases — grew to a new high in 2018: $96.8 billion, 9 percent over 2017. In particular, it highlighted the rapid growth of streaming video, which grew to 613 million subscriptions worldwide, an increase of 27 percent over 2017.

The report lays out the health of the entire motion picture entertainment industry, and it reports that consumers spent $96.8 billion on entertainment around the world. The international theatrical box office grew to $41.1 billion (spending in the US and Canada grew to $11.9 billion), while home entertainment hit $55.7 billion internationally.

Specifically, “digital home entertainment was the driver of growth.” US digital sales grew by 24 percent, while international digital sales grew by 34 percent. At the same time, physical releases dropped in the US and internationally by 15 and 14 percent, respectively. The report lumps together digital sales, VOD, and paid subscription services, but it doesn’t break down how those contribute to the larger picture. Either way, it’s pretty clear that increasingly, more people around the world prefer to buy their entertainment from the internet, rather than buying a physical disc.

When it comes to streaming video, the MPAA reports that subscriptions surpassed cable television for the first time, with 131.2 million new subscriptions added, rising to 613.3 million worldwide, a jump of 27 percent over 2017’s numbers. The report says that cable subscriptions dropped by 2 percent to 556 million.

That said, despite that growth in streaming video and the small decrease in cable subscriptions, cable subscriptions still rake in the most money, increasing in 2018 by $6.2 billion to $118 billion. After cable subscriptions, satellite TV brings in the next highest amount of revenue, while streaming video comes in third. The report also notes that more Americans watch cable (80 percent) followed by streaming services (70 percent).

What the report does lay out, however, is that online streaming video is still growing, and TV programming takes up the lion’s share of what it calls views / transactions. (The fine print in the report says that this includes “views from subscription services and digital transactions” as well as ad-supported viewing.) In 2014, there were 71 billion TV views / transactions and 5.4 billion for movies. In 2018, that grew to 170.6 billion and 11.5 billion views / transactions for TV and film, respectively — a massive increase in just four years.

Along with those increases, the report says that views have more programs to watch than ever before. Citing numbers from FX Networks Research, the report says that since 2014, scripted dramas across all channels have grown by 28 percent to 496 in 2018. That number grew to 1,620 programs when daytime drama, children’s programming, and unscripted shows were included.

When it comes to the theater industry, people spent more (but not by much) when compared to last year’s numbers ($40.5 billion), just a single percentage point to $41.1 billion. Within that subset, international spending dropped slightly, from $29.4 billion to $29.2 billion. There are some interesting things in there, though. While spending in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa dropped, Asian markets grew, especially in China, which was the biggest market for film outside of the US and Canada. It experienced a 12 percent jump in earnings. The global market for 3D films dropped by 20 percent, falling below the rate in 2014.

The continued rise of streaming video isn’t much of a surprise, as companies like Amazon, CBS, Hulu, and Netflix have grown in recent years to compete with traditional television networks. More than that, those figures seem as though they’re sure to go even higher, given that newcomers like Apple, Disney, and NBCUniversal are all set to introduce their own streaming platforms in the coming months. With those streaming services will come even more original content as a means to entice viewers to sign up for their platforms. A recent study found that in 2018, Netflix added more original content than it had acquired from other sources, while companies like Apple and Disney are jumping into the marketplace with their own high-profile catalogs of original programming.