After receiving a pandemic-driven viewing bump last year, the amount of time that US adults spend watching linear TV will decrease by 7.0% this year to an average of just 199 minutes per day.

Average time spent with digital video will reach 145 minutes per day by 2022.  - Insider Intelligence
Average time spent with digital video will reach 145 minutes per day by 2022. Insider Intelligence

While Netflix still boasts just under a third (30.8%) of all US over-the-top (OTT) subscription revenues, other players have expanded their services, including putting a greater emphasis on original content, to be competitive in the video-on-demand (VOD) space. 

Here are the top OTT VOD streaming services in 2021 by total viewers: 

YouTube – 219.3 million viewers, 1.5% growth YoY

The video streaming social media platform has risen to the top of the OTT VOD services list. Last year 95.4% of US OTT video viewers watched YouTube at least monthly, surpassing even Netflix (74.9%). It’s important to note that these numbers include total YouTube viewers, including free ones.

The pandemic has driven a surge in YouTube viewing and accelerated the trend of watching it on smart TVs and other screens. In June 2021, YouTube launched a sports-centric add-on ahead of the Olympics in an effort to drive more users to its platform.

Netflix – 174.7 million viewers, 2.7% growth YoY

At one point, Netflix dominated the OTT subscription space. But now the space is more fragmented and other services are eating into its share. Netflix’s share of subscription OTT video viewing among adults decreased from 48.5% in 2019 to 42.9% last year.

Netflix still boasts just under a third (30.8%) of all US OTT subscription revenues.

Netflix still has several advantages that could help the company continue to grow its user base, including its regularly updated slate of original content. In June 2021, the streaming giant launched an online merchandise shop, Netflix.shop, to tap into the booming ecommerce market. The company is also reportedly eyeing the gaming space. 

Amazon Prime Video – 146.5 million viewers, 10.0% growth YoY

More than 175 million of Amazon’s 200 million Prime users worldwide also used Prime Video in Q1 2021, according to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s former CEO. This year, we estimate that there will be 146.5 million Amazon Prime Video viewers in the US, earning it the third-place spot for OTT video services. 

And Amazon shows no plans of slowing down. Earlier this year, the company acquired leading film and TV studio, MGM, a move intended to bolster its streaming content offerings—Amazon will gain MGM’s library of more than 4,000 movies and 17,000 hours of TV programming.

Hulu – 110.2 million viewers, 8.1% growth YoY

After its US audience grew by more than 30% for three consecutive years, the service is beginning to reach saturation in the market. However, it’s important to note its Live TV offering will still see double-digit growth this year as cord-cutters look for live tv streaming alternatives.

The streaming service revamped its platform design in an attempt to simplify and unify the user experience across devices and payment tiers, and is continuing a marketing campaign to promote its slate of Hulu Originals.

Disney+ – 101.4 million viewers, 19.9% growth YoY

As stated above, Netflix’s share of average time spent with subscription OTT video declined last year. The drop is largely attributable to Disney+, which absorbed a remarkable 8.0% of the average US adult’s time with subscription OTT video services in its first full year in the market. We expect that figure to rise to nearly 10% by 2023. 

The onset of the pandemic largely helped drive Disney+ adoption, and its audience size is on track to surpass that of sister platform Hulu by 2024. Disney+ also decided to release movies like Raya the Last Dragon, Luca, and Cruella, straight to streaming platforms rather than releasing them in movie studios or theaters. 

HBO Max – 53.8 million viewers, 32.6% growth YoY

Similarly to Disney+, HBO Max’s parent company, WarnerMedia, decided to release its entire 2021 slate simultaneously on HBO Max, as well as in theaters. And while WarnerMedia signed a deal with Regal Cinemas earlier this year to return to theaters in 2022, the typical 90-day theatrical run will be shortened to just 45 days, after which the films will be available on HBO Max. 

The decision to release movies simultaneously on its streaming platform and in theaters garnered a massive amount of subscribers—as of Q1 2021, AT&T reported a quarter-over-quarter (QoQ) increase of 3 million domestic HBO and HBO Max subscribers, bringing the total to 44.2 million. Additionally, HBO launched an ad-supported version of HBO Max for $9.99 a month. HBO Max With Ads hopes to appeal to more price-conscious consumers, as WarnerMedia looks to reach its goal of 120 million to 150 million global subscribers for HBO and HBO Max by 2025. 

Apple TV+ – 30.8 million viewers, 18.0% growth YoY

Apple TV+ uniquely offers consumers a one-year free subscription with the purchase of an Apple device. However, the company may need to ramp up its customer retention efforts. Data from MoffettNathanson and HarrisX revealed that 29% of Apple TV+ users said they plan to end their subscriptions once the trial ends. To accomplish this Apple extended its year-long subscription, granting anybody with an Apple TV+ subscription that was set to expire by June 2021 instead expired in July 2021. 

The platform may lack in content compared to its streaming competitors, but its connection to Apple hardware gives it access to a potentially large viewer base. We estimate that there will be more than 40 million Apple TV+ viewers by the end of 2024. 

ESPN+ – 25.0 million viewers, 27.8% growth YoY

We expect ESPN+ will see significant growth in the coming years. By 2025, ESPN+ viewership will reach 45.8 million, nearly double the 25.0 million viewers it’s expected to reach this year. . A big contributor to this growth is The Walt Disney Co.’s decision to bundle ESPN+ with Disney+ and Hulu.

Gains in digital sports consumption will continue to propel ESPN+ adoption. And in March 2021, ESPN signed a seven-year rights deal with the NHL, which includes putting the NHL’s out-of-market streaming offering exclusively on ESPN+, including more than 1,000 recorded games. 

Future of OTT media & the video streaming industry

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

After showing signs of slowing down pre-pandemic, OTT subscription revenues rose by 41.2% YoY in 2020. We expect growth to continue this year, with OTT subscription revenues increasing by 29.9% YoY to $38.15 billion.

When we break out these revenues by company, Netflix, Disney, and YouTube are the largest recipients (our number for Disney combines revenues for Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu). In 2021, 30.8% of all US OTT subscription revenues will go to Netflix, Disney will account for 25.9%, and YouTube will account for 13.2%.