Has Netflix Already “Won” The Streaming Wars?

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(Welcome to the “Most Important Story of the Week”, my bi-weekly strategy column analyzing the most important (but often not buzziest) news story of the last two weeks. I’m the Entertainment Strategy Guy, a former streaming executive who now analyzes business strategy in the entertainment industry. Please subscribe.)

Thinking about the streaming wars over the holiday break, a bit of hypocrisy occurred to me. One of the biggest business stories of the 2000s was how Blockbuster failed to recognize that Netflix was a threat to its business, and they were disrupted out of existence. It was a cautionary tale that has been wielded ever since:

If you don’t adapt/evolve/embrace new technology, you’re doomed. 

Knowing that, one would think that most of the entertainment companies would be lauded for not just going the Netflix-disrupted-us-into-non-existence-like-Blockbuster route, right? They’d be praised for, you know, actually trying to survive. If anything, though, it seems like Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros. Discovery and NBC-Universal are constantly criticized for trying to compete with Netflix in the first place. 

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right?

(I may have an extended essay/rant on this in the future.)

I bring this up because most years I like to kick things off with the question that I think will have the biggest impact on the business of entertainment for the next few years. And that hypocrisy above seems directly related to the question that’s been bouncing around in my head for the last few months. My “Most Important Question of the Year”, as I call it.

Here’s my past questions:

2019 — Can the New Streamers Succeed in Streaming? (I Would Have Asked This)
2020 —
What is the Same and What is Different Between Streaming and Traditional Entertainment
2019/2020 —
Who Will Win the Battle Between Aggregators (Streamers) and Bundlers (Devices/Operating Systems)?
2021 — Is Streaming “Winner-Take-All”/Will Streaming Become More Competitive?
2022 —
What does the Next Generation of Cord Cutters Look Like?
2023 — How do entertainment companies (both traditional and tech) change their strategies in 2023 (and beyond)? 

So let’s dive right into this year’s question…

Most Important Question of the Year for 2024

Let’s start with a very-obvious-where-I’m-going-with-this hypothetical. Look at the seven companies competing in the race below. Who won the race?

That’s just my regular Nielsen “The Gauge” stacked bar chart, turned on its side. If, say, you have only four streamers taking all “viewership” market share by 2030, that’s between 20% and 25% of all viewership. That’s where I set the finish line. If you looked at the chart, you’d say no one has won this race yet. The top racer is, as you may have guessed, Netflix:

As you can see, Netflix is NOT at 20% of the living room TV viewership as of December of 2023. And they have a long way to go, don’t they? (If the “finish line” is actually higher—30%? 50%? 100%?—Netflix is nowhere close to it!)

Of course, 2023 was the year that “Netflix has already won the streaming wars” became the go-to simplification of the streaming landscape. (I won’t link to examples, but it’s so ubiquitous that I’m sure you’ve read or heard people saying it.) Frankly, that statement just doesn’t seem accurate. And not just a little inaccurate, but “framing the strategic situation this poorly will lead to really bad decisions” inaccurate. 

That’s why I want to turn it into a question. By reframing this question, I think we can understand the shape of the streaming wars in 2024. By asking this question, we can define what “winning” looks like in entertainment, and know what to look for to see who is winning. Once we dig just this one step deeper, the entire streaming industry changes shape. 

That’s why this is the question of the year:

Has Netflix Already Won The Streaming Wars?

Of course, you can probably guess that my answer won’t just be, “Yes, Netflix has already won.” I imagine that you, the reader, have tastes a lot like my own. If you wanted simple, easy answers (“Netflix has already won!” “Binge release everything!” “Theaters are dead!”), you wouldn’t be here. I imagine my readers are members of the “nuance and moderation” gang. The people who know surface-level news coverage and analysis (which mostly aligns on conventional wisdom everyone else, especially people on social media, are saying) just isn’t that valuable.

Whenever the entire industry aligns on something—when “everyone knows” something—we’ve seen that just ends up not holding true. 

Several (Technically 7) Potential Answers 

Here are the possible answers to the question, “Has Netflix already won the streaming wars?”

The rest of this article is for paid subscribers of the Entertainment Strategy Guy, so to…

…find out the potential answers to “who will win the streaming wars”
…see the best image to capture Netflix’s commanding lead
…thoughts on how many “seats” there will be at the entertainment table
…and more.

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The Entertainment Strategy Guy

The Entertainment Strategy Guy

Former strategy and business development guy at a major streaming company. But I like writing more than sending email, so I launched this website to share what I know.


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