U.S. Subscription Streaming Biz Expanded 20% to $25.3 Billion in 2021, DEG Says

(Image credit: Digital Entertainment Group)

Further buoyed by the launch of two new services, Discovery Plus and Paramount Plus, the U.S. subscription streaming business expanded by nearly 20% in 2021, reaching $25.3 billion, according to figures published Monday by Digital Entertainment Group (DEG). 

The U.S. SVOD industry grew more than 19% in the fourth quarter alone, to $6.64 billion, the group also said. 

(Image credit: Digital Entertainment Group)

DEG, which has collected data from the major studios since the VHS era, reported a 7.8% uptick in the overall "U.S. home entertainment" business to around $32.3 billion, driven primarily by this explosive growth in subscription streaming. 

However, 2021 continued to present volatility for a business that the DEG defines as including not only SVOD, but rentals and sales of movies and TV shows in both physical and digital formats. 

Notably, DEG doesn't tally the premium video-on-demand, the window in which movies are simultaneously released in theaters and home streaming. In a what continued to be a highly disrupted global market for theatrical distribution, studios including Disney released a number of films simultaneously in theaters and on SVOD service Disney Plus, adding a $30 surcharge. WarnerMedia, meanwhile, released its entire 2021 Warner Bros. film slate day-and-date on HBO Max, without adding any additional consumer price beyond the monthly subscription. 

DEG said its studio constituents generated around $525 million last year from premium VOD releasing. 

This expansion of "PVOD" not only cut into the theatrical revenue pie, but also took a bite out of the transactional business for U.S. home entertainment. 

Total "electronic sell-thru" for 2021 -- the business of selling digital copies of movies and shows -- was down 19.2% to just over $2.42 billion. "VOD" -- the business of renting movies and shows digitally -- was off nearly 23.8% to $1.77 billion. 

Finally, sales of movies and shows on DVD and Blu-ray were down nearly 20% to jut under $2 billion. Rentals of discs, meanwhile, dropped 21.2% to $822.7 million. 

DEG said the return of theatrical distribution in Q4 invigorated the overall disc business a bit in the fourth quarter. DVD and Blu-ray sell-thru was down only 14% during that Q4 period. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!