A look back at the biggest streaming trends of 2023

10 mins
  • In 2023, the entertainment industry faced disruptions due to strikes by the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
  • This caused delays in show and movie premieres, prompting streaming platforms to adjust their release schedules to keep the content flowing and viewers engaged.
  • Netflix took action to combat account sharing by introducing measures like account verification on new devices and adjusting prices in certain regions.
  • A notable trend emerged as streaming platforms increasingly turned to books and comics for inspiration. This resulted in successful adaptations like One Piece and The Last of Us, offering viewers fresh and engaging content.
  • The streaming industry saw further consolidation, with platforms like HBO Max and Discovery+ merging and Disney+ taking control of Hulu.
  • Love streaming? Get your fill of the most popular shows in the U.S. while staying private and secure with a USA VPN!

From Netflix’s crackdown on account sharing to the Hollywood strikes, 2023 has been a tumultuous year for streaming. Despite these challenges, the industry continued to consolidate, grow, and evolve, and streaming services continued to churn out hit after hit.

To regain market share and increase revenue after a shocking drop in 1.2 million subscribers in 2022, Netflix began taking measures to limit account sharing. Users must now verify their accounts by entering a code within 15 minutes if Netflix detects the account is being used on a new device. To retain and attract new subscribers, Netflix slashed prices in regions such as Asia and Africa while also doing away with free tiers in others. The company also invested more in original content, spending about 17 billion USD annually in 2022 and 2023. 

The investment has paid dividends. All Quiet on the Western Front, a Netflix original film, made history at the Oscars by being nominated in nine categories and winning for Best International Film. The movie follows a group of young German soldiers during World War I. Released exclusively on the streaming platform, it quickly gained critical acclaim and a large audience. The film’s success and AppleTV+’s CODA win in 2022 marked a milestone for streaming platforms, proving that the company and others like it can produce high-quality films that compete with traditional studios.

Top 15 TV shows we watched in 2023:

  • The Last of Us 
  • Ginny & Georgia
  • New Amsterdam
  • You
  • Succession
  • Beef
  • Jury Duty
  • Ted Lasso
  • Suits 
  • The Witcher
  • Black Mirror
  • Ahsoka
  • One Piece
  • Loki
  • The Crown

As the year comes to an end, we’re looking back at some of the most popular shows and films you streamed this year. Swipe through our slideshow below to see all the highlights in entertainment for 2023:

And it wasn’t just original content that shined. Suits, the legal series that originally ran from 2011 to 2019 on USA Network, became Netflix’s most-watched acquired series in a single week. The series that introduced fans to a future royal, Meghan Markle, amassed 3.7 billion minutes of viewership from July 3 to July 9 before securely holding the top spot in Nielsen’s weekly streaming rankings for 12 consecutive weeks. Suits was eventually surpassed in weekly viewership by Virgin River, a romantic drama about a nurse who moves to a small town in California for a fresh start in September. 

The biggest impact on the entertainment industry came from strikes led by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). Hollywood came to a halt as writers, producers, and studios struggled to reach agreements on issues such as compensation, royalties, and the utilization of AI in the industry. These strikes, which started for writers in May and actors in July, had a significant impact on streaming services, leading to the postponement of several show and movie premieres. Consequently, streaming platforms adjusted their release schedules to ensure a steady flow of content and maintain viewer engagement throughout the year.

The WGA strikes ended on September 27, with the union agreeing to a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that promised better pay and more transparency. The agreement includes regulations regarding AI usage and requires studios to share performance data with the WGA, providing better insight into compensation aggregation. The deal also includes an 18% rise in initial pay and a 26% increase in residual base pay for streaming project writers with budgets exceeding 30 million USD. This notable increase underscores the growing significance of streaming in the entertainment industry.

The SAG-AFTRA strike ceased in early-November, 2023 after a deal was reached with studios. Valued at over 1 billion USD, the deal was a major victory for SAG-AFTRA members, who have been demanding better pay and benefits in the streaming era. 

The union managed to agree on a streaming participation bonus, regulations on AI, higher caps on health and pension funds, compensation bumps for background performers, and provisions protecting diverse communities. It was the longest strike film and television actors have ever been a part of.

Comeback season

This year, instead of tuning in to brand-new series, viewers preferred catching up on new seasons of their favorite TV shows to satisfy their entertainment needs. These series included the second season of Ginny and Georgia, Shadow and Bone‘s second season, the fourth season of You, and HBO’s series finale of Succession

However, new series weren’t entirely absent from the rankings. A new series that became a breakout hit of the summer was Amazon Freevee’s Jury Duty. The reality hoax sitcom follows a group of people who are summoned for jury duty but are actually participating in a fake trial. And, despite being called “a bad show for benign reasons” by the Hollywood Reporter, it slowly gained a cult-like following after clips of the series appeared on TikTok and other social media platforms.

According to Parrot Analytics, an entertainment analytics company, interest in Jury Duty doubled in the month following its premiere. Still, the jury is out on whether the show will be renewed for a second season.

Netflix’s Beef also made a significant impact as a breakout success. The series, starring The Walking Deads Steven Yuen and comedian Ali Wong, won over critics and audiences alike with its darkly comedic take on a seemingly mundane road rage incident. At its peak, Beef garnered 1.59 billion viewing minutes in a week when it first launched in April. Unfortunately, the show’s fame was marred by an incident involving cast member David Choe. On a podcast years ago, Choe spoke about a sexual encounter he had with a masseuse that turned out to be fabricated. According to Choe, he made the statements to provoke a reaction. Some viewers called for Choe to be removed from Beef, while others said they would not be watching the series because of him.

A year of adaptations

Streaming providers have increasingly turned to books and other literary works for inspiration, resulting in a surge of live adaptations. Some of 2022’s most popular series, like Max’s House of the Dragon and Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, were adaptations of famous books. 

This year followed the same trend. Several of the most streamed and popular titles, including Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, The Night Agent, Shadow and Bone, and One Piece, were all adapted from books and comics. 

One Piece, in particular, proved to be extremely successful. The live-action adaptation of a manga about a group of misfit pirates set a new record by becoming the most-viewed Netflix series in 84 countries worldwide, surpassing the previous record of reaching the top in 83 countries held by the fourth season of Stranger Things and the first season of Wednesday

The Last of Us, based on a video game, has been a standout hit in the streaming industry this year. Released on Max, the series is based on the popular video game of the same name and follows the journey of Joel and Ellie in a post-apocalyptic world teeming with zombie-fungus-infected humans. The show has received critical acclaim for its stunning visuals, compelling storytelling, and outstanding performances from the cast. Its success can be attributed to the show’s faithfulness to the source material while introducing new elements to captivate gaming fans. For avid gamers, The Last of Us broke the video game curse of failure that plagued other game-to-screen adaptations like Tomb Raider and Dead or Alive.  With the show’s popularity, it’s no surprise that Max has already given the green light for a second season.

The trend of adaptations shows no signs of slowing down. In 2024, fans can expect live adaptations of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Daredevil: Born Again, and The Acolyte—which is based on the Star Wars franchise.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Another interesting trend to emerge from the streaming industry is the consolidation of streaming platforms—which can be attributed to the escalating cost of content production, intensifying competition for subscribers, and the need to scale up for sustained profitability.

In May of this year, HBO Max and Discovery+ merged, forming one of the largest media powerhouses in the world. The rebranded platform, now known simply as Max, houses all HBO and Discovery+ content, ranging from award-winning shows like Game of Thrones to nature documentaries and reality TV programs. Following this move, Disney+ announced its intention to consolidate its properties into a mega app, incorporating material from Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, and previously acquired content. 

But that’s not all. In June, Paramount Global, owner of streaming platform Paramount+, unveiled plans to introduce a new tier that merged Paramount+ with Showtime, replacing Paramount+’s ad-free tier. The platform now features Showtime cult favorites like Dexter, Billions, and Shameless

The consolidation of various streaming platforms in recent years may be partly attributed to the desire to counterbalance Netflix’s dominance in the industry. With Netflix making substantial investments in original content and making their prices more competitive, other streaming services may feel compelled to join forces to compete. Through consolidation, these companies can pool their resources and offer subscribers a wider range of content, potentially diverting them from Netflix. 

Additionally, consolidation may provide a more stable financial base, enabling these companies to withstand any industry fluctuations and continue delivering high-quality content to their viewers. 

We may also see the end of platform exclusivity. Certain HBO shows like Ballers, Six Feet Under, and Insecure have already begun streaming on Netflix under a new licensing agreement. While it may seem confusing, this licensing deal means that Max now has an additional revenue stream from a competitor. In March, Disney CEO Bob Iger also discussed how Disney+ might have to reconsider its strategy of retaining its movies and TV shows exclusively. This suggests that Disney might consider licensing some of its older shows to competitors.

The future of streaming

The landscape of streaming services has indeed undergone substantial changes. The days of Apple TV+ and Disney+ offering budget-friendly options are now a thing of the past. Both Apple TV+ and Netflix recently announced significant price increases for their subscriptions, reflecting a broader industry trend this year. This has raised concerns about the future of affordable streaming.

Yet, amid these shifts, there’s an interesting development for viewers on a tight budget. Free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) services like Pluto TV are gaining traction. They provide access to a range of popular shows at no cost, though viewers have to sit through some advertisements.

This move towards free streaming options with ads may signify a shift in the future of the industry. However, for now, Netflix still maintains its stronghold as the market leader. Despite increased competition, Netflix continues to dominate the U.S. market in 2023. Even after implementing measures against account sharing, the platform has seen a steady rise in its global subscriber base throughout the year.

Netflix’s ability to keep audiences engaged remains commendable. They’ve been pushing boundaries and finding innovative ways to release shows. For instance, highly anticipated series like You and The Witcher have been released in parts, creating excitement throughout the year. This strategy was also applied to the fourth season of Stranger Things in 2022, heightening fan anticipation. It’s likely that Netflix will continue this approach in the coming year, with other platforms potentially following suit.

Additionally, the trend of live event streaming is expected to gain even more traction in 2024. Netflix has already ventured into this arena by airing comedy specials and reality show reunions. Paramount+ also live-streamed the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards, and Disney+ plans to do the same for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony this November.

In the midst of industry shifts, it’s worth noting that Netflix has announced plans to increase the price of its ad-free tiers now that the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have concluded. While other streaming services haven’t announced similar price hikes, they are exploring ways to maintain profitability. Some, like Max, have been removing content from their platform as a cost-cutting measure. On the flip side, Amazon’s Prime Video is set to introduce ads in 2024. It’ll be interesting to see how these changes impact viewership behavior on streaming platforms.

What was your go-to streaming platform in 2023? Share your favorite in the comments!

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