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Netflix is so successful, it might start running out of new US subscribers soon

Published Jun 6th, 2019 9:26AM EDT
Netflix subscribers
Image: Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

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Netflix, in the eyes of many consumers, is the king of the streaming video hill. It’s where the most content and the buzziest shows and movies can be found, and it’s spending billions of dollars through the remainder of this year to keep its pipeline of original series and movies, as well as licensed content, as chock full as possible.However, Netflix is so good at what it does that it may soon reach an unfortunate milestone in the US, according to the PwC consulting firm: The streaming giant may be getting closer to running out of new US subscribers to sign up.

That’s one of the findings highlighted in the Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2019–2023 report that PwC released Wednesday. “Netflix appears to be nearing its peak subscriber point in the U.S.,” the report notes. “The first-mover advantage in streaming video that Netflix has capitalized on to date continues to be eroded, as the industry begins to fragment, with more and more companies entering the market, from pay-TV heavyweights to specialized, niche players.”

The latter is, of course, a reference to the imminent launch of new services like Disney+, which is coming in November and which will host content from top-tier brands like Star Wars, Marvel and Disney and cost $7 a month. It will have only a fraction of the content in Netflix’s vast library, but Disney’s top brass is hoping its quality will make up for the quantity.

Apple, meanwhile, is likewise heading for a fall launch of its comparable product Apple TV+, for which the iPhone maker has recruited star power along the lines of Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and Jennifer Aniston, to name just a few. It’s commissioned a slew of original TV series like For All Mankind, a trailer for which got shown off at Apple’s WWDC 2019 event this week and presents an alternate history of the space race:

WarnerMedia is another deep-pocketed new arrival that’s poised to enter the increasingly fractured streaming market soon, to say nothing of the strong showing that Amazon and HBO continue to make. They’re both likewise spending large sums to fund The Next Big Thing, with Amazon teeing up hopefuls like a new Lord of the Rings series and HBO preparing to debut highly anticipated new series like Watchmen as it turns the page on the unparalleled success of Game of Thrones.

If the PwC report is to be believed, all of the above offers another rationale as to why Netflix may hit its peak in the US soon.

Variety on Wednesday cited figures from Netflix’s first quarter 2019 earnings to bolster the PwC findings. Specifically, it pointed out that Netflix added a net 1.74 million new US streaming customers during the quarter, to reach 60.2 million paid subscribers. Thanks in part to a price hike that rolled out over the course of the year, Netflix forecasts adding 300,000 net US subscribers for the second quarter.

The streaming giant still has plenty of room to grow internationally, with a JP Morgan estimate figuring the company could surpass 200 million global paid subscribers in two more years. However, the range Netflix has been telling Wall Street that it thinks it will ultimately settle at in the US is between 60 million and 90 million, and it’s already reached the low end of that spectrum.

None of this, of course, should be read as any kind of doomsday forecast for the service, which PwC estimates will spend around $13 billion on content this year, making it, in fact, the biggest spender in the US. And subscribers, meanwhile, have plenty of major new arrivals to look forward to, like the third season of Stranger Things that’s coming on July 4.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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