It’s the 10-Year Anniversary of National Streaming Day, Apparently

It’s May 20th, so you know what that means…

Oh you don’t either? Well, apparently, it’s National Streaming Day. And this isn’t just any National Streaming Day — it’s the 10th anniversary of the holiday, first declared by Roku in 2014. Break out the champagne — or at least have a few brewskis in Roku City.

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More than just the screensaver’s majestic skyline has changed in the past decade. Occupying the penthouse of the largest skyscraper in all of streaming is Netflix, which currently has about 270 million global paid subscribers; 10 years ago the tally was 46 million subs, and the platform had just released “House of Cards” Season 2. Do you think Kevin Spacey’s life has changed at all since then?

On May 20, 2014, Netflix still did DVDs (in addition to streaming), it swore off ads, and would not touch live sports. Well, the DVDs have since been recycled, the ads are here, and some primo live sports are scheduled.

Beyond Netflix, here is the complete list of major SVOD services that existed in May 2014: 1) Hulu, still part-owned by Fox and with NBC programming, 2) an old version of Amazon Prime Video called Amazon Instant Video (fka Amazon Unbox), 3) HBO Go (HBO Now didn’t exist yet, let alone HBO Max or Max)…the end. CBS All Access, later Paramount+, would launch about five months later — the others were years away.

Where was Roku in all of this? Ten years ago, it was just a device-maker; albeit the largest one and the first way to stream Netflix on a TV. Roku had cornered its market years before the Roku Channel was even a germ of an idea. Fast-forward to 2024 and the Roku Channel now has exclusive Sunday Major League Baseball games — an unthinkable set of rights in 2014. Roku Media is now run by Charlie Collier; in May of ’14, he was still basking in the sun of the “Breaking Bad” finale at AMC. We’re bypassing his entire Fox tenure here.

Soon, Roku would be forced to pivot. The following year, Smart TVs would go mainstream, disrupting the disruptor. Also in 2015, “binge-watch” was named word of the year by the Collins English Dictionary. Are you starting to get a sense of just how much has changed in time for National Streaming Day’s aluminum (tin is also acceptable) anniversary?

Roku has grown up — and pivoted with — the industry. In 2014, more than 3.2 billion hours were streamed on Roku devices. In 2023, it was 106 billion; that’s 35 times larger. Roku is still number 1, but in some slightly different categories. It merged with those Smart TVs and is now the best-selling TV operating system in the U.S. and Mexico, representing about 40 percent of TVs sold in those countries. Roku is the top streaming platform by hours there as well.

We’re drowning in the stream. In January, a study by Kantar found that 95 percent of American households have at least one streaming subscription. Forget maturation, that’s practically complete market saturation. It also found that more than half of Americans now use a FAST platform, like the Roku Channel. The term “FAST,” which stands for Free Ad-supported Streaming Television, wasn’t even coined until December 1, 2018.

What a difference a decade makes.

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