Streaming fever definitely infects everyone. The last to catch it? The American distribution giant Walmart, yet better known for its canned peas and its rolls of toilet paper at tight prices than for its artistic creations. The group announced on August 17 that it had entered into a two-year agreement with the very prestigious Paramount. This partnership will enable it to offer the rich catalog of series and films from the streaming Paramount+ to Walmart+ customers, a $98 annual subscription entitling them to online shopping delivery and gas discounts.
This merger may come as a surprise, as the two groups operate in distant universes, but Walmart’s strategy is quite clever. Streaming can indeed be a powerful lever for recruitment and loyalty to the Walmart+ offer. If the giant Amazon, its biggest competitor, has constantly improved its SVOD service [NDLR : Subscription Video On Demand], it’s also good for this reason: this catalog of films and series is a strong argument to encourage Internet users to subscribe to the Prime subscription (which offers free one-day delivery for 70 euros per year) and, collaterally, to spend more on the platform. “Each time we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes,” said Jeff Bezos in 2016, without the slightest false modesty.
The agreement between Walmart and Paramount is however one more sign, if needed, that the streaming market is at a turning point. In recent years, the number of video streaming offers has exploded. “All the studios, starting with Disney, have developed their in-house offer”, underlines Pascal Lechevallier, consultant specializing in the market in question.
This heightened competition is making growth increasingly difficult to find, especially as the US market reaches saturation point. “More than 85% of households in the United States are customers of a subscription video-on-demand service, and more than half of these households even have three,” points out the expert. The subscription boom observed during the confinements is, moreover, less durable than hoped, a fortiori with galloping inflation which is hitting the purchasing power of households hard. The declines in subscribers that Netflix recorded for the first time in ten years (200,000 in the first quarter of 2022.1 million in the second quarter) speak for themselves in this regard.
Spread the word, the end of recess has come. “Analysts don’t focus as much on subscriber numbers as they used to, they now also look closely at churn [NDLR : le pourcentage d’abonnés qui se désinscrivent] and the average revenue per platform user. They cannot operate at a loss ad vitam aeternam”, observes Pascal Lechevallier. The actors of streaming have therefore started to hunt expenses. are uncertain”, confides an observer of the sector. Known so far for its great tolerance of free riders, Netflix even announced this year that it would crack down on the illicit sharing of subscription codes.
Bundled deals like the one from Walmart and Paramount are therefore an effective way for streaming players to lower their spending. “The studio gets its hands on the significant base of Walmart subscribers [NDRL : 16 millions selon les estimations de Morgan Stanley] without having to spend money to conquer them”, explains Pascal Lechevallier.
However, SVOD offers are currently undergoing even deeper reconfigurations. The platforms are thus placing a lot of hope in the launch of a type of offer that has hitherto not been very present in the world of video streaming: the free subscription (or at a very reduced price) backed by advertising. Netflix has thus made a spectacular about-face on the subject, announcing it for the beginning of 2023, when it had always strongly opposed it until then. On the other side, the paid offers are also redesigned with prices that keep increasing. The end of a golden age for the consumer.
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