Phillip Swann, editor of TV Answer Man, and the former editor of TVPredictions.com, is making several predictions for what will happen in the TV technology industry in 2022. His third prediction: Will another company buy Netflix?
Netflix continued to dominate the streaming industry in 2021, topping 214 million subscribers worldwide at the end of the third quarter. However, the video giant has shown signs of weakness on the domestic front, adding just 70,000 new customers in the U.S. and Canada in the third quarter compared to 4.4 million added overall.
The shrinking growth at home shouldn’t be a surprise with the emergence of powerful rivals such as Disney, Peacock (Comcast), and HBO Max in just the last two years, and the continued investment by Amazon and Disney in Amazon Prime and Hulu respectively. Netflix U.S. suddenly is surrounded by formidable foes and it likely won’t be long before they begin poaching its global audience as well.
Consequently, I predict that Netflix Chairman Reed Hastings and his team will conclude the time is right to join with a rival to form an even more powerful company, one that can survive a long-term streaming war that will be even more expensive than the current one. And one that can fight back against the likely alliances of other rivals, starting with the merger of Warner Media (HBO Max) and Discovery.
But which company is best suited to buy Netflix? Or, at least, become equal partners?
While many companies would be in the usual suspects list, such as Apple and Amazon, I see only two that make sense:
Disney Plus’ meteoric growth (118 million subscribers worldwide at the end of the third quarter) since its launch in November 2019 is breathtaking. (And some industry analysts actually predicted that Disney+ would struggle!) But the company is still plagued by a reputation that it’s largely a service for kids (despite a catalog that includes Marvel, Star Wars, Hamilton, Beatles documentary, etc.) The addition of Netflix would give the streamer something for the entire family, and remove arguably Disney+’s toughest opponent. As corporate executives once loved to say, It’s a win-win.
Comcast has a different reason to be interested in Netflix. The company’s own streaming service, Peacock, is falling short of expectations and it needs a jolt of some kind to compete. (This is why I have said you shouldn’t dismiss Peacock as a contender for the NFL Sunday Ticket.)
The company, which owns everything from a cable/Internet service to TV networks to a theme park to a movie studio (etc, etc), also has the money to buy Netflix. And it could use its multiple divisions to promote ‘Peaflix.’ (Okay, not the best name.)
So who will win? If I were betting today, I would bet on Disney. But either company could be in the hunt.
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— Phillip Swann