What the top 7 streamers will spend on content in 2022
From Disney to Peacock, we estimate that major streamers will spend well over $50 billion on programming this year.
It takes money to make money. You have to pay to play. And the latest battle between the fighters vying to automatically charge your credit card $4.99 to $19.99 every month is the Content Spend War. Spending them, like drunken Pirates of the Caribbean – a joke that makes more sense when you see who does the most looting for shows and movies.
As any studio or streamer knows, spending guarantees nothing. The real trick is spending on what people want to watch while churning out the volume needed to keep them hooked. It’s a constant and evolving balancing act in itself, but the more money there is, the more attempts at success there are.
IndieWire has compiled a list of top streamers/studios and ranked them in order of their respective content spend. Some figures are specific, others are estimates. In total, streamers will spend well over $50 billion on content this year – a very conservative estimate, but one that leaves some wiggle room for those who refuse to provide advice. However, one thing is abundantly clear: for every streamer owned by a company that also houses a movie studio, streamer production budgets dominate, if not eclipse, their old-school counterparts.
Melinda Sue Gordon/Lucasfilm Ltd.
It’s a close call between Disney and Netflix, but Disney+ has a price tag that would make a Disney princess blush. The Walt Disney Company spent $25 billion on content in 2021, according to the company’s Feb. 10. It’s peanuts for Dumbo: Disney plans to spend “about $33 billion” on content this year, including sports rights, the SEC filing continues.
“The increase is due to higher spending to support our DTC [direct-to-consumer] expansion and generally assumes no significant disruption to production due to COVID-19,” the quarterly filing states.
In addition to Disney+ and Hulu (of which Disney owns 67% and the rest under NBCUniversal’s parent company, Comcast), those gargantuan numbers also include theatrical releases and linear television programming. MoffettNathanson analysts told IndieWire they estimate $15 billion for streaming and $16 billion for linear, leaving about $2 billion for theatrical content.
NIKO TAVERNISE / NETFLIX
Netflix is still the king of streaming, but with only one small-screen platform to fill, it’s not the biggest overall consumer of content. In 2021, Netflix invested more than $17 billion in streaming shows and movies, in line with its 2020 spending. Netflix did not share its 2022 forecast.
Disney is clearly trying to catch up (Netflix started streaming in 2007 and started producing originals in 2012; Disney+ launched in 2019), but there’s no comparison between movie budgets Disney and (most) Netflix movies. Since (most) Disney movies make hundreds of millions in theaters, they spend a lot more money to produce and market the projects.
This component of the box office makes more than a lot of money; it also brings big data. Yes, the almighty Netflix algorithm learns specific interests from streaming statistics, but it can’t know exactly what drives membership. Since theater consumers react to specific content, they allow traditional movie studios to take advantage of what the market values. In other words, if you’re paying to see “The Batman” this weekend, Warner Bros. knows exactly which property attracted the transaction. While streamers follow what you watch, they can never be completely sure what content (or really, the specific combination of content) prompted a subscriber to sign up.
The leaders of the future Warner Bros. Discovery, home to HBO Max and Discovery+, talks as if the combined WarnerMedia-Discovery, Inc. would be a frugal spender, but the numbers might not bear that out.
“We spent over $4 billion on content in 2021 at Discovery alone – and obviously also on the WarnerMedia side they increased spending. So we’re certainly spending enough from my perspective,” Discovery Chief Financial Officer Gunnar Wiedenfels said during his company’s recent quarterly earnings conference call.
But the company has already “prepared” for what Wiedenfels called “a very significant increase” after the merger. “It’s not about winning the spending war,” said the German executive, adding a saying from (European) football. “Money doesn’t score goals.”
Maybe not, but the future super company makes it rain in an effort to push the ball down the pitch. In total, WarnerMedia will spend more than $18 billion on content this year. This includes HBO and HBO Max, the Turner Networks (including CNN and CNN+) and studio Warner Bros.
4. Amazon Prime Video
Prime’s total content spending on “video and music” was $13 billion in 2021, compared to $11 billion in 2020. (Season 1 of “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” cost her nearly half a billion alone.) This figure includes licensing and production costs, as well as “costs associated with digital subscriptions and sold or rented content” – so payments to artists for Amazon Music streams, for example. It’s also good for fourth place on this list.
Amazon can afford it: the former online bookseller is now worth $1.4 trillion. We don’t have any indication of Prime Video’s content spending in 2022.
Colin Hutton/Apple TV+
Apple, the richest company on this list (market cap: $2.7 trillion), is also the most suspicious. A few years before its Apple TV+ launch, the MacBook maker spent $1 billion creating movies and TV shows. That soared to $6 billion at launch, according to the Financial Times. Worse, Apple says nothing about its TV+ budget.
Emerson Miller/Paramount Network
Although its monetary commitment is near the bottom of the list, perhaps no company has been more vocal about increasing its streaming spending than ViacomCBS, which is now Paramount. As of this writing, Paramount and Peacock may be neck and neck in content budgets, but Paramount is expected to pull out by 2024, giving them the edge in our spending countdown.
ViacomCBS spent $14.7 billion on content in 2021. Of that, $2.2 billion was for DTC movies and shows, compared to $1 billion in 2020 — when Paramount+ was still CBS All Access. Paramount executives said on Investor Day last month that they now expect DTC content spending to reach $6 billion in 2024, well above the previous target of $4 billion. billion dollars for that year. Expenses should start to drop from there, and Paramount+ could even reach profitability in 2025.
Mark Taylor / Peacock
The peacock is, well, the peacock. Streaming service NBCUniversal forecasts content spending of $3 billion in 2022, double last year. Peacock’s goal is to hit $5 billion in annual spend “over the next two years,” Comcast Chief Financial Officer Mike Cavanagh said during a recent quarterly earnings call. This does not include linear spending at Universal Pictures or NBCUniversal.
Peacock is also no. 7 among subscribers, but has had some success lately. Speaking at Morgan Stanley’s investor conference on Tuesday, Comcast chief Brian Roberts said Jennifer Lopez’s “Marry Me,” released last month, was the most-streamed daytime movie of Peacock. On the series side, Roberts told analysts and reporters that “Bel-Air,” which premiered the same day Super Bowl LVI aired on the platform (in addition to airing on NBC and Telemundo ), is Peacock’s most-watched original show.