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Legacy US studios debuted nearly 50% of titles via streaming platforms in 2021

Share of first-run original US commissions for VoD platforms (%)

Almost half of the new originals produced by Discovery, Disney, Paramount, WarnerMedia and Comcast in 2021 were launched on VoD platforms.

That’s according to a new report from UK-based research firm Ampere Analysis, which spotlights how the major US studio groups are increasingly shifting their focus away from linear and toward streaming.

In 2021, Discovery placed 48% of its first-run TV titles (not including renewed shows) on streaming platforms, followed by Disney (44%), Comcast (43%), WarnerMedia (39%) and Paramount (31%).

Based on Ampere’s finding, Discovery has made the most pronounced shift from linear to streaming. In 2019, it placed 6% of its first-run TV titles on streaming, with that total increasing to 23% in 2020 and 48% in 2021.

Those figures aren’t enormously surprising given that its streaming product Discovery+ only launched in the US in 2021. However, they clearly illustrate how swiftly Discovery has moved as it enters the streaming fray and looks to catch its rivals.

WarnerMedia’s figures remained consistent, with 39% of its shows launching on VoD platforms in 2021, the same proportion as in 2019.

With WarnerMedia and Discovery now combining under the Warner Bros Discovery banner, the expansion of its streaming-first strategy will likely evolve as the merged entity builds toward launching a streaming product that combines HBO Max and Discovery+.

Meanwhile, in 2021, Disney released around 44% of its original content on VoD platforms, a slight dip from 47% in 2019.

The report also showed that Comcast has moved quickly to catch its rivals since entering the global streaming business. Around 43% of the shows produced within the Comcast group premiered on streaming platforms in 2021, up from 34% in 2020 and 12% in 2019.

Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS) has increased its proportion of first-run streaming launches but still lags behind its rivals, according to the report. In 2021, 31% of Paramount Global’s titles launched on streaming platforms, up from 13% in 2020 and 8% in 2019.

“Having entered the SVoD market early with CBS All Access, Paramount now lags its studio rivals with only one-third of commissions going to VoD. Time and resource over the last two years has largely been spent readjusting content priorities amongst its cable assets post the 2019 Viacom-CBS merger,” said the report.

Ampere Analysis also broke down the proportion of new and renewed shows premiering on streaming services under those five studio groups.

In 2021, of the 570 titles made under the Discovery umbrella, 383 premiered on linear compared with 187 on VoD.

Meanwhile, of Disney’s 322 shows, 211 landed on linear platforms first and 111 debuted on streaming.

If its recent moves are anything to go by, Disney is looking to place even more of its linear programming on streaming. Last week, the company revealed that Dancing With the Stars, a ratings driver that has aired on Disney-owned linear network ABC for 16 years, would be moving to Disney+ for its next two seasons, marking the first time a live show will stream on Disney+.

Of Paramount Global’s 305 projects released in 2021, 225 launched on linear while 80 received streaming-first releases. Comcast debuted 181 titles on linear platforms and 94 on streaming in 2021, while WarnerMedia launched 148 shows on linear platforms and 90 projects on streaming.

In terms of how legacy studios are managing the digital shift, Fred Black, research manager at Ampere Analysis said: “Original content is crucial to the success of any SVoD service. And alongside increasing the volume of streaming originals, the studios are using a strategy centred on adapting existing IP, spin-offs, and reboots in their efforts to migrate loyal cable and movie audiences to the new ecosystem.

“Franchise character spin-offs have proven enormously successful for Disney+, with titles such as The Mandalorian and Marvel series like Loki and WandaVision boosting the service’s early audience growth.

“The other studios have taken note; spin-offs from Food Network cooking competition Chopped and TLC stalwart 90 Day Fiancé are increasingly housed on Discovery+, and while Paramount Network’s blockbuster hit Yellowstone is currently streaming on Peacock due to a preceding deal, the after-show reaction series and dramatic spin-offs will be found on Paramount+.”

In addition to a growing emphasis on reboots and franchise extensions, Ampere Analysis also highlighted how legacy US studios are leveraging the power of their kids’ brands to acquire and retain subscribers.

Black said: “All of this poses a problem for incumbents like Netflix and Amazon, which find themselves needing to build out franchises at an accelerated rate to compete, through a combination of buying up existing IP like Lord of the Rings, the Roald Dahl books or The Witcher, as well as leveraging existing hits like Amazon’s The Boys or Netflix’s Selling Sunset to the maximum extent through multiple spin-off series to keep pace.”

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