The latest quarterly results from global streaming giants Netflix and Disney+ show that subscriber growth in North America is slowing or turning negative, but in Europe’s largest single market, German television giant RTL Group is betting there’s still plenty of room for growth.
On Wednesday, RTL launched an ambitious new streaming service, announced as the first of its kind, combining 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 RTL+ Musik app aims less at taking customers away from the major US platforms than at expanding the overall streaming market in Germany. The German-language offering is also a bet that local audiences have an appetite for homemade content that the big boys aren’t satisfying. The company’s all-video service RTL+ currently has around 3.4 million paying subscribers. With the new offer, RTL wants to more than double that in the next four to five years. Together with RTL’s Dutch streamer Videoland, the company wants to surpass the 10 million streaming subscribers mark by 2026.
RTL+ Music costs $10.17 (EUR 9.99) per month for the first six months, rising to $13.23 (EUR 12.99) per month thereafter. A discounted plan that costs $5.08 (€4.99) per month and a free ad-supported tier are also available. For comparison: A Netflix subscription in Germany costs between €7.99 and €17.99 per month, depending on the tariff. Disney+ costs German subscribers €8.99 per month or €89.90 ($9.16/$91.60) per year.
At its core, RTL+ Musik is a cable-style bundling game: a bet that consumers will be willing to pay a slightly higher price for significantly more and diverse content. In addition to series, films, news and music, RTL intends to further expand its streaming offer and add podcasts, audio books and all-you-can-read magazine subscription services to RTL+ by next year. The content comes from the various areas of the RTL parent company Bertelsmann, whose subsidiaries include the publishing house Penguin Random House, the audio book group AudioNow and the magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr. However, the music is outsourced and made available through a licensing deal with French music streamer Deezer.
It could prove to be a risky move. While the German streaming market is still growing, European markets tend to lag behind the pattern in the US, where growth has slowed. Netflix has lost subscribers for two straight quarters, and Disney’s domestic growth has been sluggish, adding just 100,000 new subscribers in North America last quarter, compared with 1.5 million in the previous three months.
But RTL and Bertelsmann have dedicated themselves to the streaming push. The broadcaster plans to triple its investment in original content from around 200 million euros ($231 million) annually to 600 million euros ($692 million) by 2026, investing in new series orders as well as technology and platform infrastructure becomes.