SVOD services have seen a startling and sustained gain in popularity across the United Kingdom over the last five years, with BARB, a UK audience measurement provider, estimating that 18.8 million UK homes (66%) currently subscribe to any SVOD platform – up from 17.4 million in the last quarter of 2020. Until now, the UK and Germany have been the leading Western European markets for SVODs, each contributing approximately 4% to the 2020 total global consumer spending on SVOD services, according to research by Strategy Analytics. However, recent projections from Digital TV Research suggest that Germany is on course to overtake the UK for the first time by 2025, achieving an estimated 52 million SVOD subscriptions by 2026 to the UK’s 51 million.
The report forecasts that, across 18 Western European countries, the number of paying SVOD subscribers will soar from 167 million to 238 million by 2026. The UK will trail Germany in its contribution to this 71 million subscriber increment, gaining 9 million new subscribers while Germany will gain 17 million – Italy and France are expected to contribute 10 million new subscribers each.
The battle between Netflix and Disney+ is also set to intensify across Europe and globally, with Netflix’s hitherto dominant position in the SVOD market challenged for the first time. With an estimated 67 million subscribers by 2026 in Western Europe, Netflix will retain its position as the largest SVOD platform in the region; however, this latest projection represents a considerable downgrade from an earlier forecast published by Digital TV Research, that predicted Netflix securing 74 million subscribers during the same timeframe.
Simon Murray, Principal Analyst at Digital TV Research, attributes the change in forecast to a slow-down in new Netflix subscribers and heightened competition from Disney+, as well as SkyShowtime (the new SVOD platform launched as a joint venture between Comcast Corporation and ViacomCBS), HBO Max (WarnerMedia’s streaming platform, launching in Europe this month) and local players.
While Netflix is still experiencing growth in Western Europe, Disney+ could double its subscriber base in the region over the next five years, bringing their paying audience to 55 million users. Even accounting for the meteoric growth of Disney+, Amazon Prime will remain second place in the Western European SVOD market, but on a global level, Disney+ is positioned to overtake both Amazon Prime and Netflix by 2025, bringing their total global subscribers to 278 million in 2026 – slightly more than the 271 million projected for Netflix.
Global SVOD growth shows no sign of slowing down. Simon Murray at Digital TV Research notes, “There will be 700 million SVOD subscribers by 2026; up by 35% from 518 million at end-2020. The 2026 total represents 39% of TV households, increasing from 30% in 2020.”