SVOD Services kweliTV, BlackOakTV Place Bets on U.S. Subscriber Revenue Growth, Slower International Market Expansion

As the slow churn back to work and school beckons us back to a semblance of normalcy, streaming services that saw tremendous growth over the last year of lockdown are not losing any steam. According to its fourth-quarter earnings report, Netflix added 8.5 million new customers, crossing a threshold to over 200 million subscribers worldwide. Netflix, HBO Max, HULU, and others, have also reported significant fourth-quarter earnings.

Each platform boasted expanded programming to include more diverse films and television shows with culturally diverse characters and directors, and while international subscribership also saw a jump, U.S consumers continue to dominate the bulk of consumer representation. For smaller players in the game, delivering culturally relevant shows and movies to Black audiences as a primary competitive strategy, the growth trend is also on par, with users primarily hailing from the U.S.

Black Streaming Sites Stick Close to Home

While Black-owned subscription video on demand (SVOD) streaming services do report seeing slight growth among international users, they are still heavily invested in expanding their U.S. market reach.D.C.-based streaming platform kweliTV has seen growth in the U.K. market, which now represents about 8.5 percent of their total subscriber base, but 88 percent of its total revenue still comes from U.S. subscribers. 

Expanding its reach across the globe has been organic: current American users share the news about their programs with friends and family via text message or insular WhatsApp groups.”We’ve been successful so far at utilizing Facebook and Instagram targeted ads to reach our customers in the U.S.,” DeShuna Spencer, founder and CEO of kweliTV, told The Plug. “When gathering data from customers in the U.K., Caribbean, and Africa, most likely a friend or family member shared our link or info via a WhatsApp group.

BlackOakTV (Techstars ’21), which raised an undisclosed funding round from Zane Ventures and W Fund last year, said their strategy is to build heavily in the U.S. before expanding to other markets.”With our acquisition efforts focused on the U.S., our pricing across the globe is stagnant at $4.99, but as we do expand our focus, you can expect equivalent pricing in Europe, and reduced pricing in the rest of the Americas and Africa,” Uzo Ometu, founder and CEO of BlackOakTV, told The Plug.

Geography Will Matter for Growth

Heavy focus on serving Black consumers across the diaspora could see organic growth for Black-owned subscription video on demand (SVOD) sites targeting Black audiences. Amplification and visibility of Black-owned SVOD services saw a lift following the series of “Buy Black” initiatives which spread flagrantly across social media and celebrity endorsements following national outrage over the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others who were victims of police brutality last year.

With the internet and streaming access exploding across the globe, markets like the U.K., Brazil, India, the Caribbean, and Africa are prime targets for big and small streamers alike. Netflix, which beat other streaming sites to international growth, saw 7.7 million users added across the Canadian, European, African, and Middle East markets in the fourth quarter. HBO Max recently announced its planned summer expansion into international markets. The AT&T-owned company will launch in 39 Latin American and Caribbean territories come June. Hulu is also planning its international expansion slated for this year.

Sherrell Dorsey

She is the founder and CEO of The Plug—a distinctive, Black tech news and insights platform covering Black innovators in tech, venture capital, future of work policy, and more. Follow Sherrell on Twitter @Sherrell_Dorsey.