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Netflix closed 2020 with more than 200 million subscribers worldwide, marking the first time the subscription service has hit the milestone. Partly due to the pandemic, 2020 proved to be a good year for Netflix and it looks like the service is likely to have a good 2021 as well.
Netflix closed the fourth quarter of 2019 with just over 167 million subscribers worldwide, representing a year-over-year growth of 20-percent. Almost immediately after the first national lockdowns were announced, the company saw a major spike in new users with 15 million more subscribers added during the first quarter. This was then followed by another 10 million by the end of the second quarter, although the third quarter saw some slowdown with Netflix only adding 2 million new subscribers.
However, the service bounced back in the fourth quarter with just over 8.5 million new subscribers. This was enough to take Netflix up to 203 million, resulting in a 21.9-percent year-over-year level of growth. Looking forward, Netflix now expects to add another 6 million in the first quarter of 2021. If correct, this will take Netflix to just under 210 million subscribers globally. It’s worth noting that Netflix also predicted 6 million for the fourth quarter of 2020, and yet, it exceeded that amount by 2.5 million. Therefore, it is entirely possible the service will pass the 210 million mark by the end of March, 2021.
When it comes to the U.S. and Canada, Netflix ended 2020 with 73.94 million subscribers. This compares to the 67.66 million subscribers the service closed 2019 with. Similar to the global trend, although not as high as 2020’s first and second quarters (2.31 and 2.94 million, respectively), the service bounced back strong in the fourth quarter with 0.86 million new subscribers.
Netflix not slowed down by other services
Besides the pandemic, 2020 was a notable year in terms of the launch of new streaming services. While Disney+ launched in late 2019, the service has been consistently expanding its user base throughout 2020, climbing to over 86 million by the end of the year. Likewise, HBO Max and Peacock both launched in 2020, looking for their own slice of the subscriber pie.
While it had remained unknown how much the launch of these new services would affect Netflix’s appeal, the answer to that question is now much clearer. In fact, Netflix even referenced Disney+ in its letter to shareholders, stating it “recorded the biggest year of paid membership growth” in its history, in spite of Disney’s “massive first year.”
With 2021 now well underway, Netflix will face additional competition from Discovery+ which launched this month and Paramount when it launches later in 2021. Although if Netflix manages to keep on attracting users like it is, it won’t have to worry about those services either.