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Which Streaming Services Make the Most Money?


In a few decades, the way we entertain ourselves has changed. Some of us still remember the days when we had three channels on the television and had to wait for the pre-programmed lineup of shows to broadcast. There were no options for cable, satellite, or on-demand services. Gradual changes offered dish satellite and cable television. More services were added such as on-demand services and live streaming. New streaming companies entered the scene competing for the business of consumers who want instant access to the most content at the best prices, and more content than they previously had access to. It's a marketplace that caters to consumer demand, and there are new streaming services popping up all the time but which streaming services make the most money? We looked into the video and audio streaming services to find the top ten best companies that are pulling in the biggest hauls from their subscription services. Which streaming services make the most money? The answer might surprise you.

The 5 Best Streaming Services for 2021

CNet offers their summation of the five best streaming services currently. They list Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max as the top contenders based on affordability and the value of the content for the cost. These are the main concerns of consumers who subscribe to the services. They're willing to pay premium prices to receive the content they find most appealing. It makes sense for us to look at the number of subscribers that each streaming service has amassed so far. Our strategy for determining who makes the most money is to consider the variables including subscription services, as well as the yearly revenue that each brings in. We must realize that for each of these figures, drastic changes can occur at any time. When a new service provider arrives on the scene there is always a potential for disruption. Sometimes large groups of subscribers make an exodus to another provider, but we've seen the trends follow fairly stable lines in the past few months. Visual Capitalist gathered statistical data on the current number of subscribers for each service provider. We went to the individual websites for information about the current subscription rates. We discovered that HBO Max has a current subscription number of just 17.2 million with Hulu at 39.8 million. Disney Plus is faring a bit better with 94.9 million subscribers. Amazon Prime Video has the second most subscribers with 150 million, but Netflix takes the lead with an astronomical 203.7 million paid subscribers. From all appearances, this is the order of the streaming services that are currently making the most money.

5. HBO Max

  • The number of subscribers 2021:17.2 million
  • Subscription cost: $15 reports that HBO Max launched its streaming service (HBO Max), as a replacement for its precious offering, HBO Now. It's under a new platform but the two combined to provide similar services. The subscription revenue for the year 2020 was $2.0 billion. The fees for the services were previously billed at $11.72 monthly, then rose to $11.90. As of June 2020, HBO Max was offered a subscription cost of $9.99 per month for consumers who wanted to save money and didn't mind watching advertisements for the break in the cost. The ad-free version of the subscription raised the monthly fee to $14.99 per month. The streaming service has a sunny outlook for the future with analysts predicting that by the end of 2021, HBO Max will see a rise in subscriptions to between 70 and 73 million subscribers if trends continue on their current path. When figuring the total revenue for HBO Max, the financial experts employed a formula that separated the subscription fees of HBO Max from the parent company revenues, Warner Media. The total net income for HBO Max was $1.8 billion, which puts it up there close to the other streamers.

4. Hulu

  • The number of subscribers 2021:38.8 million
  • Subscription cost: $6

Hulu does not have a clear owner as it is intertwined with multiple big media companies. It lacks the independent operations of Netflix and some of the larger media streaming companies. Quite a few media companies claim stakes in Hulu, shared with the majority owned by Disney since 2019. Before changes in majority shareowners, Hulu was more highly competitive, forging new partnerships and becoming a popular choice for consumers. It's still popular, but Hulu consistently falls under the shadow of the other streamers. Now that the dust has settled and Disney claims the lion's share of stock control in Hulu, the nearly 38 million subscribers generate a decent t revenue for 2020, with $2.9 billion the final total. Hulu has 4.1 million subscribers who also subscribe to Live TV services which bring more revenue. Hulu brought in $2.9 billion in subscription revenue, but the total amount of income it generated was $4.4 billion.

3. Disney Plus

  • The number of subscribers 2021:94.9 million
  • Subscription cost: $8

The total number of subscribers for Disney Plus was 50 million. The more updated data shows a growth of nearly double over the past year to a new estimate of 94.9 million. Disney Plus came into the streaming market with a smaller content library. The quality and subject matter were big drawing cards that appealed to consumers. It resulted in the rapid growth of the subscriber numbers to the platform. They've partnered with Lucasfilm, Marvel, Pixar, and others which supply content for the streaming service. One of the most popular is the Star Wars franchise. This offering is followed by the popularity of The Simpsons and many more popular shows. It's even taken a few of the popular television shows and movies from other streaming service providers. Disney has an edge on the growth of subscribers. The streaming service brought in revenue of $4.5 billion for the year 2020. Projections show that it is likely to bring in more than $10 billion by the end of 2021. This data places Disney Plus in the number one position concerning its annual revenue. We were impressed with the trajectory and forward-moving progress we've seen with Disney Plus revenue. In the first quarter of 2020, the revenue earnings for Disney Plus was $442 million. One year later, that number grew to $1.11 billion. The third quarter of 2021 shows a revenue of $1.44 billion. They're experiencing a growth spurt that has been ongoing for at least the last year. It isn't showing any signs of slowing.

2. Amazon Prime Video

  • The number of subscribers 2021:150 million
  • Subscription cost: $8.99

Amazon Prime Video has an annual revenue figure that is a little tougher to pin down. The subscription is also offered as a part of the Amazon Prime subscription, which translates into employing a formula to arrive at the proportion of subscription fee that accounts for Amazon Prime Video in itself. In fairness to the other streaming providers, it's necessary to separate the Amazon Prime Video fees from the Amazon Prime membership subscription fees. It is estimated that ten percent of all Amazon Prime subscription fees provide an accurate accounting for the video component or roughly 14.7 million subscribers. The formulation would put the estimated revenue amount for Amazon Prime Video at about 0.5 billion per quarter, or $2 billion annually.

1. Netflix

  • The number of subscribers 2021: 203.7 million
  • Subscription cost: $9

Netflix has the highest number of subscribers of the five best streaming services identified by Cnet. Now we look at the total revenue that the company brought in for the past year. In 2020, the total amount of revenue in US dollars was $25 billion river teg oast 10 years. Statista reports that ten years ago the total net income was $1.67 billion. The net income for 2020 was $2.76 billion with the aggregate decade revenue figure at $25 billion. Netflix employs 9,400 workers throughout the global enterprise.

Which streaming service makes the most money?

We looked at the number of subscribers, the subscription fees, and the annual revenue of the five top picks for best streaming services from Cnet. We made some interesting discoveries about each along with the way. Here is what we learned about them as of 2021, and which streaming service provider is leading the pack.

5. Disney Plus: $1.44 billion

Disney Plus is owned by one of the richest media companies in the world, but the streaming service portion is the fifth-best moneymaker with a net income of just $1.44 billion per year. Although the service has the third-highest subscribers amount, the bottom line is not translated as pure net income. Bear in mind that this position could change from year to year.

4. HBO Max: $1.8 billion

HBO Max made a good show with its $1.8billion in net revenue for the past year. Although it has the lowest number of subscribers, it's managed to recover a larger portion of the proceeds from subscription sales to become the fourth biggest moneymaking service in America today. Projections are looking good for the service to possibly advance to a higher position in the year to come. Projections suggest that the leadership of the media streaming giant expects the subscription numbers to reach as high as 73 million by the end of the year.

3. Amazon Prime Video: $2 billion

Amazon Prime Video has the second-highest number of subscribers, but when it comes to net revenue earned, it is the third-highest earner. After separating the Amazon Prime Video subscription earnings from the Amazon Prime subscription fees and prorating the actual amounts that go for the streaming service, financial analysts determined that the actual amount that Amazon Prime Video contributed over the past year for streaming revenues was $2 billion.

2. Netflix: $2.76 billion

Netflix by far has the highest number of paid subscribers with a total of more than 200 million. After all of the financials were completed, even though it has the most subscribers, the net income for the streaming giant was $2.76 billion. We initially thought that it would be the streaming service that would make the most money, but after all of the overhead expenses were taken into consideration, the net earnings came in second to our first place winner.

1. Hulu: $2.9 billion

Hulu is the biggest moneymaker of the streaming services for the present. The results of our analysis came as a complete surprise. It was our initial assumption that Hulu would place at the bottom of our list because of its lower number of subscribers and the many different companies that have invested for large stakes in its profitability. As it turns out, being controlled by Disney has worked out fairly well for Hulu. The Hulu streaming service has brought in higher net revenues than the Disney Plus streaming service owned by its parent company.

Final thoughts

When we began our analysis of the five best video streaming providers, it looked as though our leader would fall into last place. Appearances can be deceiving and there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes in the operations of these massive media giants. Overhead is a factor that can reduce the gross income to a far lower net result. The lesson that we learn from this is that it's essential to take into account all of the various factors that can eat away at the net income of a business before assuming that a higher number of subscribers amounts to greater earnings.

Allen Lee

Written by Allen Lee

Allen Lee is a Toronto-based freelance writer who studied business in school but has since turned to other pursuits. He spends more time than is perhaps wise with his eyes fixed on a screen either reading history books, keeping up with international news, or playing the latest releases on the Steam platform, which serve as the subject matter for much of his writing output. Currently, Lee is practicing the smidgen of Chinese that he picked up while visiting the Chinese mainland in hopes of someday being able to read certain historical texts in their original language.

Read more posts by Allen Lee

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