Netflix is the biggest winner since Disney kicked off the streaming wars

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Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, attends a meeting with France’s President Emmanuel Macron during the “Choose France” summit, at the Chateau de Versailles, outside Paris, France, January 20, 2020.Benoit Tessier | Pool | Reuters

The purported plot of the streaming wars goes as follows: Sick of losing customers and relative market value to Netflix, big media transitioned their aging television-focused businesses to focus on subscription streaming services instead.

There’s no exact starting date for these “wars,” but on Nov. 12, 2019, Disney launched Disney+, kicking off traditional media’s assault on Netflix.

Since then, AT&T‘s HBO Max, Comcast NBCUniversal’s Peacock, ViacomCBS’ Paramount+, Discovery‘s Discovery+ and AMC Networks‘ AMC+ have all sprung to life as Netflix competitors.

So who’s been the big winner from all of this new competition?

Netflix.

Since the day Disney+ launched, Netflix shares have risen more than 87%. That dwarfs gains by every other media company during the same time period.

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Netflix reports first-quarter earnings on Tuesday after the close of trading. Analysts expect earnings of $2.97 per share, up 89% from last year, on revenue of $7.13 billion, up 24%.

Netflix is the foundation

The jump in market value goes hand-in-hand with eye-popping subscriber additions during the pandemic. In the first half of 2020, Netflix added 37 million new global customers. That was a record gain for the company, whose previous annual high was 28.6 million in 2018.

A plurality of Americans believe Netflix has the best original content among streaming services, according to a recent Morgan Stanley survey. Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents chose it as No. 1 among streamers — far surpassing No. 2 Amazon Prime Video at 12%.

While the streaming wars give consumers more alternatives to Netflix, they also cement Reed Hastings’ company as an anchor product in many U.S. households. If streaming video is now — or soon will be — the centerpiece of home entertainment, supplanting cable TV, Netflix will almost certainly be a part of a typical household’s content diet.

Netflix outspends all other streaming services on content and already has more than 200 million global subscribers. Having that kind of global reach is a huge