Nine’s streaming platform Stan takes center stage as Hollywood hangs intrigue
When Nine Entertainment Co boss Mike Sneesby presents the company’s annual financial results on Wednesday, many eyes in the media industry will be on the streaming service he built from scratch.
With an estimated value of around $ 1 billion, Stan contributes a significant portion of Nine’s $ 5 billion market value. He is considered one of the company’s crown jewels and a key growth asset. Sneesby’s skillful management of the platform has earned him the top post at the country’s largest media company (which is also the owner of this banner). But while Stan has a lot to do, he also faces significant challenges. Competition is increasing, and not just for subscribers, but also for the content that powers its service.
Stan, who hasn’t had a permanent boss since Sneesby was raised to lead All Nine in April, is expected to reveal on Wednesday that he has reached well over 2.4 million paying subscribers. The announcement will include updated figures on the number of people paying to watch rugby and tennis tournaments such as Wimbledon and Roland Garros.
Sports content is sold through an add-on package which is considered essential to boost Stan’s revenue growth (in May, Stan said he had gained nearly 150,000 sports subscribers). Stan also recently secured lucrative football rights and announced last week that he has extended deals with major Hollywood studios Lionsgate / Starz and WarnerBros.
But as Stan grows up, the way forward is unclear. When it launched in 2015, Stan’s task was simple: to buy quality movies and TV series that could be watched by millions of people. Local rival Foxtel had not launched a viable streaming service. Netflix arrived several months later. Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Apple, Paramount + and the myriad of other services competing for eyeballs and credit cards weren’t even on the horizon. Now they’re all in Australia, selling content that they produce themselves.
A few years ago, Netflix faced a situation similar to what Stan is facing now. When he realized he couldn’t rely on Hollywood studios to provide him with content, he started making his own. But it’s hard for Stan to do it on the same scale as Netflix. Production is expensive, and frequent lockdowns from COVID-19 have added logistical and financial complications.
Meanwhile, his rival Foxtel now seems invigorated. The News Corp-controlled platform struck a major deal with WarnerMedia for its HBO Max content last year, which resulted in subscriptions to its new streaming service Binge. Its controlling shareholder News Corp is once again considering an IPO.
Recent moves by US movie studios to launch direct-to-consumer services pose a challenge for any streaming service that lacks direct pipelines to Hollywood. In an Australian context, this forces Stan and Foxtel to fight for the content that remains, which drives up costs.
And Australia’s glut of streaming services may not be over: The launch of Discovery Plus, which is owned by Discovery (which plans to merge with HBO owner WarnerMedia), was reported last week when Optus unveiled its new streaming service aggregator, SubHub.