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Recent quarterly results from global streaming giants Netflix and Disney+ show subscriber growth in North America slowing or turning negative, but in Europe’s largest single market, German television giant RTL Group is betting there is still plenty of room to grow.
On Wednesday, RTL launched an ambitious new streaming service, billed as the first of its kind, that will combine video streaming with films, TV series and news content, with a music streaming service offering more than 90 million songs and up to 100 radio channels.
The app, RTL+ Musik, is aimed less at taking customers away from the big U.S. platforms than at expanding the overall market for streaming in Germany. The German-language service is also a bet that local audiences have an appetite for home-grown content that is not being met by the big boys. Currently, the company’s all-video service RTL+ has some 3.4 million paying subscribers. With the new service, RTL hopes to more than double that in the next four to five years. Together with RTL’s Dutch streamer Videoland, the company aims to top 10 million streaming subs by 2026.
RTL+ Musik will cost $10.17 (€9.99) a month for the first six months, rising to $13.23 (€12.99) per month afterwards. A more stripped down offering, costing $5.08 (€4.99) a month, as well as a free ad-supported tier are also available. To compare: a Netflix subscription in Germany costs between €7.99-€17.99 ($8.14-$18.32) a month, depending on the plan. Disney+ costs German subscribers €8.99 a month or €89.90 ($9.16/$91.60) annually.
At its core, RTL+ Musik is a cable-style bundling play: a bet that consumers will be willing to pay a slightly higher price for significantly more, and more diverse, content. In addition to series, films, news and music, RTL plans to continue adding to its streaming offerings, with podcasts, audiobooks and all-you-can-read magazine subscription services set to join RTL+ by next year. The content will come from the various divisions of RTL parent company Bertelsmann, which counts publisher Penguin Random House, audiobooks group AudioNow, and magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr among its subsidiaries. The music, however, will be outsourced, and supplied via a licensing deal with French-owned music streamer Deezer.
It could prove a risky move. While Germany’s streaming market is still growing, the European markets tend to follow, with a lag, patterns in the US, where growth has been slowing. Netflix has lost subscribers for two quarters in a row and Disney’s domestic growth has been sluggish, adding just 100,000 new subs in the past quarter in North America, compared with 1.5 million in the three months previous.
But RTL and Bertelsmann have committed to the streaming push. The broadcaster plans to triple its investment in original content, rising from around 200 million euro ($231 million) a year to €600 million ($692 million) by 2026, with investment both in new series commissions as well as in technology and platform infrastructure.
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