COVID-19 has been good for the streaming industry in general, but it’s been really, really good for Netflix.
On Tuesday, January 19, the company announced that in the last quarter of 2020—i.e., when countries around the world were locking themselves inside again due to winter surges in the virus—it added 8.5 million new, paid subscribers, bringing its cumulative, paid subscription base to over 200 million. Wall Street had anticipated a gain of 6 million. In 2020 overall, Netflix added 37 million paid subscribers, a 31% rise from the previous year, when no one knew what COVID-19 was.
This news keeps Netflix head and shoulders above the newbie streaming services that have been trying to steal its lunch—none more so than Disney Plus, which in its shareholder letter Netflix acknowledged with exclamatory praise, noting that it “had a massive first year (87 million paid subscribers!).”
The line that followed, however, kept things in perspective: “We recorded the biggest year of paid membership growth in our history.”