Thanks to a steady stream of new and original content, video streaming services will not see their pandemic-induced success fade any time soon—by 2026, 73% of the US population (252.8 million people) will turn to OTT video streaming for their media consumption.

By the end of 2022, 240.7 million people in the US will be OTT video service users.  - Insider Intelligence
By the end of 2022, 240.7 million people in the US will be OTT video service users. Insider Intelligence

While YouTube leads the pack, set to attract 95.8% of OTT video viewers to its service in 2022—though not exclusively—ESPN+ will see the greatest growth this year, increasing viewership by 31.5% YoY. The varied and exclusive content across services has persuaded users to diversify their streaming portfolios during the pandemic, and they will continue to do so.

Here are the top OTT services set to attract the most viewers 2022:  

YouTube – 230.6 million viewers, 2.1% growth YoY

The video streaming social media platform has maintained its position at the top of the OTT video services list and, despite creeping social video competition from Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, will uphold this streaming dominance in years to come. 95.8% of US OTT video viewers will watch YouTube at least monthly this year, surpassing even Netflix (73.8%).

YouTube is also now offering “grants” to podcasters who switch to producing videos on their platform. Podcasts will reach over 504 million global listeners by 2025, so YouTube is hoping that leveraging this growing market will help retain and attract viewers being lost to other social platforms, such as TikTok.

Netflix – 177.7 million viewers, 2.5% growth YoY

Netflix remains a strong player in the OTT video streaming arena, with an expected 73.8% of all OTT video service users tuning in by the end of 2022. It is forecast to experience greater YoY viewer growth this year than will its biggest competition, YouTube. Additionally, this YoY growth is expected to remain steady at 2% or above, at least through 2026.

Like YouTube, Netflix is also turning to a new sector of entertainment to maintain its stream of new viewers: gaming. Over the last year, Netflix has acquired game developers Next Games and Night School Studios, hoping to make inroads with new generations of users.

Amazon Video – 152.6 million viewers, 4.1% growth YoY

With original series such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “The Boys,” and “The Wheel of Time,” Amazon will remain on the streaming services winner’s podium. Viewership is expected to grow 4.1% YoY, reaching 152.6 million viewers by the end of 2022.

Amazon has established itself as a leader in sports streaming, recently becoming the home for “Thursday Night Football” and the UEFA Champions League. It is currently in a battle with Disney+ for the rights to stream India Premiere League Cricket games, which will flag down a new demographic of viewers.

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Hulu – 125.8 million viewers, 8.2% growth YoY

Hulu’s live TV offering will contribute greatly to its continued growth—an anticipated 8.2% YoY increase in viewership through 2022—as more cord-cutters look for cable alternatives. This offering, plus its viewer-favorite ad-supported tier, will help Hulu stay ahead of sister company Disney+ in total viewers for at least the next four years.

Hulu also ranks third just behind Netflix and Amazon in terms of best original content, with 9% of US adult respondents placing it at the very top in this respect. A continuous release of movies and series exclusive to Hulu will help it maintain steady viewer growth over the next few years.

Disney+ – 109.8 million viewers, 14.8% growth YoY

Disney+ exclusives, like Pixar’s “Turning Red” and the upcoming “Pinocchio” remake, continue to attract younger streaming audiences and contribute to the service’s expected 109.8 million viewers in 2022, or 45.6% of all OTT video viewers.

Later this year, Disney+ is expected to drop a Hulu-esque, ad-supported tier to better compete with the likes of Netflix. The new option, which will have a lower price tag than the current subscription fee, will help attract new viewership at a faster rate than its challengers.

HBO Max – 87.6 million viewers, 20.5% growth YoY

HBO Max is one of the fastest growing services, expected to increase viewership to 87.6 million people this year and by almost 150% by 2026. HBO’s hit drama series, such as “Succession,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Euphoria” have been a boon for the service as major attractors of new users.

In big news, HBO Max will be forging a partnership with Discovery Plus later this year, building a true rival for Netflix in the variety of both programming and key audiences. It also announced an exclusive deal to stream men and women’s matches for the US Soccer Federation. More and more services will be looking for similar partnerships, content deals, and mergers to help bolster overall viewership.

Peacock – 64.3 million viewers, 25.0% growth YoY

Peacock, the newest of the video streaming services, recently announced not only a $30 million deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) for broadcasting, but also a slate of streaming-exclusive political commentary from MSNBC, promising content viewers can find nowhere else. 

Riding its exciting entrance onto the scene, we expect Peacock to grow viewership by 25% this year, reaching an audience of 64.3 million by 2022’s end, and earning eyes from 26.7% of all OTT video streamers.

ESPN+ – 43.7 million viewers, 31.5% growth YoY

ESPN+ is the fastest growing of the OTT services. Through the end of the year, we expect to see 43.7 million viewers, representing 31.5% YoY growth. Also by the end of 2022, ESPN+ is expected to command 44.6% of all digital live sports viewers. 

Parent company Disney offers ESPN+ in a bundle with Disney+ and Hulu, drawing viewers with the promise of varied content. Sports streaming is a hot market right now, with Disney also going in on a bid for the NFL Sunday Ticket to bolster ESPN’s offerings.

Apple TV+ – 38.7 million viewers, 9.5% growth YoY

Apple TV+ is expected to reach 38.7 million viewers (11.5% of the US population) by the end of 2022, representing a 9.5% YoY growth rate. By 2026, one-fifth of all subscription OTT video viewers will count Apple TV+ among their services of choice.

Apple also just revealed that it will be bringing a number of MLB games to their TV+ platform exclusively. This, partnered with viewers’ increasing appetite for streaming sports, will make Apple TV+ a more appealing destination for cord-cutters in the years to come.

The future of the OTT video streaming industry

OTT video streaming is a high growth industry with numerous competitive players and new entrants looking to innovate their way to the top. 

OTT video viewership and subscription OTT video viewership are poised for steady increases over the next few years, with the latter expected to reach 91.4% of all OTT video viewers by the end of 2022. All indications point to viewers’ willingness to pay for several services in order to access the ultimate variety of content, from movies, to sports, to gaming. Though the COVID-19 pandemic saw an explosion in viewership for these services, continuous growth across the board is expected even as we emerge.