What dominance of Netflix, Disney + and other streaming services mean for cinema

Netflix, Disney +, HBO Max and Hulu - how the streaming services are affecting cinema

Streaming services are more common than TV channels in some places
Streaming services are more common than TV channels at some households. Photo: Tumisu / Pixabay

Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Peacock are brands that some of us are more familiar with than TV channels and local cinemas.

Whether accessible worldwide or regionally, free or subscription-based, movie streaming services are redefining the way we view cinema and television.


There are hundreds of movie streaming services in 2022, and the monopoly of Netflix no longer applies.

Netflix recorded a loss of subscribers for the very first time in Q1 of 2022 and the major streaming service has long suffered from their subscribers’ sharing passwords and accounts with more people than “allowed”.

Now, the company announced to clamp down on this issue by creating a feature where the account holder can add an extra member and pay “a bit more”.

Such features are currently being tested in Latin America, but it is more than likely that something similar will appear in Europe soon.

This might be the first reason for Netflix’s loss of subscribers, but the bigger one is undoubtedly the rising competition.

Value for Money

The streaming war over subscribers is ruthless.

Large services attract audiences by more beneficial offers; different, original content for a more valuable fee.

Besides standard cinema and TV series, streaming services often offer various original content: anime (Crunchyroll), live sports (ESPN+, Peacock, Discovery + …), scientific documentaries (Curiosity Stream, National Geography on Disney +) or news (Peacock, CNN +).

However, their success varies.

This is an infographic about streaming services subscriber numbers.
Top 10 streaming services based on the number of subscribers. Data obtained from https://web.archive.org/web/20210414011054/https://www.forbes.com/sites/petercsathy/2020/01/31/amazon-prime-video-the-quiet-ominous-streaming-force/?sh=172e6d521f1a#15440bdc1f1a/ and infographic created via: Canva

For example, Peacock’s library offers everything from motion pictures by Universal Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation to CNBC news and NBC Sports, whereas CNN + had presented only paid news content.

News is predominantly streamed for free due to ad-based profits, thus it is not surprising that CNN + garnered only 150 thousand subscribers within the first weeks.

The streaming service shut down barely a month after its release on April 30.

The low demand for a streaming site that offers “just” high-quality news for almost $6 a month, indicates the need for services to target both content gaps within the market and diversify the available content to appeal to a wider group of consumers.

CNN+ was a short-lived service from the freshly merged Warner Bros. Discovery conglomerate, whose portfolio includes both HBO Max and Discovery +.

The company now plans to merge the two platforms into one product creating a combination of “the daily engagement that people enjoy with Discovery content versus sort of the event-driven nature of the HBO Max content”, says the conglomerate’s CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels.

COVID-19 direct-to-streaming releases

While many streaming services have been here for over a decade, more businesses jumped on the bandwagon after the COVID-19 breakout.

HBO Max, Peacock, Discovery +, and others launched during the pandemic and in tandem with the rest had to figure out how to offer fresh direct-to-streaming content.

While many companies postponed their major theatrical releases, Disney+ created a Premier Access to ensure the company’s major releases could still be accessed in areas with closed cinemas due to the pandemic.

For an extra fee of $29.99, Disney + subscribers could buy for example Mulan, Cruella, or Black Widow.

The MCU movie was released simultaneously on Disney + and in cinemas, surprisingly collapsing by 67% in its second-week sales performance.

Via Black Widow, Disney + experimented in navigating the post-COVID-19 movie releases while trying to maintain huge box-office sales and battling piracy.

Post-Covid era of fighting illegal streaming

When companies like Disney, Warner Bros, or Paramount opted to release movies simultaneously in theatres and online, it caused both noticeable losses in profits and fast high-quality illegal streaming.

The disappearance of theatrical windows meant that cinemas lacked visitors not just due to the raging pandemic but because of many preferring the comfort of watching a movie in their own home.

This prompted some to think cinema was dying.

Today, the sixth highest-grossing film is Spider-Man: No Way Home, a movie released in December 2021, demonstrating that cinema is not in fact dead.

However, the nature of it is changing to satisfy the current video on demand (VOD) system.

After controversies surrounding the Black Widow release, Disney has released their major movies exclusively in theatres for 45-day long runs, before making them available on the digital platform.

Warner Bros reached a similar decision after box office underperformance from King Richard, The Suicide Squad, and The Matrix Resurrection.

Movies like The Last Duel, Eternals, West Side Story, and most importantly The Batman are paving the way for the future of cinema.

Future of cinema

The Batman has perhaps been the most talked-about movie to have been released on day 46 on VOD services.

It has enjoyed incredible box office success and is still going strong in theatres, despite being available to stream on HBO Max.

Now, Doctors Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has entered theatres this weekend and fresh data say the movie kicks off with the second-best opening during the pandemic, scoring $450 million dollars globally in its first weekend.

Whether it comes to the blockbuster machine MARVEL releasing more movies in their Cinematic Universe (Thor: Love and Thunder in June, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in December), or the next horror from Jordan Peele, Nope; one thing is certain: there is a lot to look forward to in cinemas this year.

Jurassic World Dominion promises the return of Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum, stars of the original Jurassic Park (1993), luring both old and new fans of the franchise and guaranteeing high box office numbers.

Another comeback to expect is Avatar: The Way of Water, a sequel to James Cameron’s groundbreaking Avatar (2009) – the highest-grossing movie of all time (dethroned only by Avengers: Endgame in 2019 but recovered its leading position in 2021 after a Chinese re-release).

Since 2009, the nature of theatre has changed significantly with the rise of streaming services.

One thing is for sure: the cinema is here to stay.