Fast-Growing Streamers' 'Reach' Levels Competitive With Big-Time TV Sports Leagues

Sharply rising streaming TV platforms' “reach” key levels. Some are nearing broadcast and cable TV network numbers, which could make them competitive for exclusive live major sports franchises deals -- NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL, PGA Golf-- in the next few years.

Netflix is virtually at the broadcast mark -- with a 55% reach number of U.S. TV households, according to an analysis of Nielsen data and other metrics by MoffettNathanson Research.

By comparison, broadcast networks' reach numbers are in the 60% range -- ABC, 58%; Fox, 58%; NBC, 60%; and CBS, 60%. There are 129 million U.S. households as of January 2021.

Although other major streaming TV operations are below these levels -- with Amazon Prime Video at 41%; Roku, 34%; Disney+, 30%; Pluto TV, 26%; and Tubi, 24% -- these streamers are already at the reach level of traditional linear cable TV networks.



For decades, cable TV channels have been stagnant when it comes to subscriber growth -- which has kept them in the 30% to 35% reach range. Those networks are now seeing slow declines due to cord-cutting.

The top cable TV networks currently are TNT at 34%; TBS, 32%, ESPN, 30%; and USA Network, 26%.

In three years time, however, many premium streamers will be well ahead of cable networks and near broadcast networks. They could compete for high-priced programming, such as sports.

By 2025, the report estimates that Netflix -- which will grow more slowly in U.S. subscribers (around 73 million currently) -- will stay roughly at the same 55% reach level. But others will continue to climb: Disney+ will get to 51%; Prime Video, 50% ; Hulu SVOD, 50%; Roku, 50%; Tubi, 42%; and Pluto TV, 37%.

According to the authors of the report: “At these elevated levels of subscribers and MAUs [monthly active users], we think DTC [direct to consumer] services could start to support major sports rights, and our current subscriber forecasts could even prove conservative considering the potential acceleration in subscriber growth sports could provide.”

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