HBO Max gobbles up subscriber gains in Q1

Meanwhile, newly launched Paramount+ pulled in more than 1 in 10 new SVoD subscribers in the period. (HBO Max)

HBO Max scooped up the largest share of new streaming subscribers in the U.S. in calendar Q1 2021, fending off competition from newly launched rivals Discovery+ and Paramount+, fresh data from market research company Kantar showed.

The service came away from the quarter with 14.4% of new subscription video on demand (SVoD) customers, with Amazon’s Prime Video in second place with 13.2%. Paramount+ and Disney+ were neck and neck for third and fourth place with 11.8% and 11.6% of new additions, respectively, with Hulu (10.6%), Netflix (8.5%) and Discovery+ (7.7%) trailing behind.

HBO Max previously secured the highest share of new additions in Q4 2020 and has consistently ranked among the top three gainers since its launch in May 2020. But Dominic Sunnebo, SVP of Kantar’s Worldpanel Division, said in a statement its latest performance was “all the more impressive” given both Discovery+ and Paramount+ launched in the quarter.

“HBO is not just winning new subscribers, it’s also dramatically increasing the advocacy rates of its subscriber base at the same time,” he said, noting the service improved its Net Promoter Score from tenth place to second. “This bodes well for both retention and word of mouth recommendation to drive future subscriber acquisition.”

Sunnebo also highlighted strong performance from Paramount+, which “successfully won more than 1 in 10 new SVoD subscribers” in the period. Though Discovery+ took a smaller share, Sunnebo said this was still significant “for a service with a more narrow focus on documentary and reality based content.”

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All told, Kantar data showed more than 7% of U.S. households took out a new SVoD subscription in the quarter, pushing total subscriptions to 241 million.

Rise of the ad-based tiers

Both HBO Max and Paramount+ are planning to roll out ad-supported service tiers in Q2 2021. Sunnebo tipped such options to become more popular among subscribers, as they look to offset growing costs from subscription stacking.

He noted the average number of SVoD subscriptions hit 3.8 in Q1, up from 3.3 in the year-ago quarter. While nearly 25% of households plan to cancel at least one of their subscriptions, 49% said they’re amenable to seeing advertisements if it lowers the cost of a video streaming service.

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As competition for new subscribers heats up, "we are likely to see more ad-based tiers come online to widen adoption and provide consumers with more choice,” Sunnebo concluded.