Netflix’s subscriber growth has slowed substantially as the streaming boom ignited by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic appears to be diminishing. Just over a year ago when Covid-19 forced the majority of the world into lockdowns, the extensive libraries of streaming providers became a saving grace for so many.
While fears of the pandemic as well as of the economic impact on people’s incomes became entirely commonplace, streaming platforms like Netflix have enjoyed a tremendous rise in new subscribers. For months now, it’s been clear that with the closure of cinemas, streaming platforms are well and truly in a prime position to completely revolutionize the way that films are released and viewed. The popularity of services like Netflix or Disney+ has also upped the ante for subscription streaming platforms to create original content. Despite production on many new TV programs and films having been slowed by the pandemic, subscribers have been treated to several great surprises throughout this difficult time. But while Netflix appears to have grown into an invincible force during the past year, the new reality for the service is not quite as clear cut.
As reported by The Guardian, the boom that Netflix had previously experienced has slowed substantially in the first several months of 2021. After estimating that the first quarter of the financial year would bring in roughly 6 million new subscribers, Netflix managed to sign up 4 million new subscribers. This number is considerably smaller than the 8 million subscribers that signed up in the final months of 2020. What’s more, Netflix expects to only add 1 million subscribers this quarter, giving the streaming giant its slowest growth on record.
For its part, Netflix blames the lower numbers on the pandemic and its direct impact on the production of new programs and films. Admitting that the new year has provided them with less content than usual, Netflix insisted that the financial slowdown has nothing to do with increased competition from other providers such as Disney+ and Amazon Prime. But with Covid vaccines becoming increasingly commonplace, there’s hope for the first time in a year that things will gradually become far more convenient for film and television production. Exactly how long it will be before the benefits of the vaccine allow the film and television industry to function as it once did is unknown, but it will be interesting to see how Netflix fares once that return to normalcy is complete.
With the entire future of film distribution still very much up in the air, this latest blow to Netflix illustrates how streaming services aren’t necessarily in the clear. Once cinemas are able to open to the public again, there’s every reason to believe that people will revel in the idea of going out again and seeing films in a theater. The pandemic is still currently a threat, but its potential to shutter cinemas and help streaming providers gain supremacy might not be as smooth of a transition as originally thought.
Mike Jones is an author, screenwriter, world traveler, and cinephile. His work has been featured in print and online in a variety of publications, and he’s also a Berlinale Talents alumnus. Cinema has always moved him in a big way and aside from having seen The Talented Mr. Ripley more times than any other living person, he maintains a pretty darn healthy physical media collection.
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