illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Bezos, Bidding and Best Content

Featuring Netflix, Tribune Publishing, Sublytics and Amazon

In this week’s edition of Five on Friday, a new survey shows that Netflix is the streaming service with the best original content, and another survey reveals that Americans do not universally agree with basic journalism values. Also, after Swiss billionaire and philanthropist Hansjorg Wyss backed out of the Tribune Publishing bid, Alden Global Capital’s bid became “superior once again, we share highlights from Jeff Bezos’s final letter to shareholders, and Sublytics offers a sneak peek at chapter 2 of The Essential Subscription Data Guide.

Netflix is Most Watched Streaming Service with Best Original Content

If you read the headlines earlier this week, you might think Netflix is headed for a downturn. But the media’s most recent portrayal of the popular streaming service isn’t entirely accurate. Sure, Netflix missed their first quarter subscriber goals, but they still grew their paid subscribers by 14% year-over-year. They also doubled their earnings from the first quarter of last year!

Equally important, surveys consistently show that viewers believe Netflix has some of the best original programming. In fact, according to Morgan Stanley’s 2021 survey, 38% of survey respondents chose Netflix as the top streamer for originals, putting it in the #1 spot. Twelve percent chose Amazon Prime Video, followed by Disney+, Hulu, and HBO Max which each got between 6 to 7% of the total, according to Variety.

Morgan Stanley’s 11th annual survey also offered the following statistics:

  • The average American household subscribes to 2.5 streaming video services, up from 1.8 in 2019 and 2.3 last year.
  • There are an estimated 300 million streaming subscriptions in America as of the end of 2020.
  • Asked why Netflix was the best, viewers said broad selection of content choices (55%), good original programming (51%), content I like (49%), and no commercials (46%).
  • Survey respondents said their most used streaming service is Netflix (58%), followed by Prime Video (45%), Disney+ at 31% and HBO Max at 20%. Peacock debuted at 13% and Discovery+ at 7%.

The survey looked at more than 25 streaming video services including 18 subscription services. Approximately 3,100 American adults were surveyed. For additional results, see “Survey: 39% of Americans Say Netflix Has Best Original Content of All Streaming Services” by Todd Spangler for Variety.

Netflix is most watched streaming service with best original content

Americans Do Not Agree on Journalism’s Core Values

Speaking of surveys, in a survey conducted as part of the Media Insight Project in collaboration with the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, the organizations report that not all Americans agree with the five core values of journalism. The five basic moral values the survey tested include the following:

  1. Care vs. harm: how important it is to be kind and to protect others, particularly those less fortunate, and to keep them from harm
  2. Fairness vs. cheating: how important it is to think about justice, equality and reciprocal altruism and how much people should be punished for being dishonest or fraudulent
  3. Loyalty vs. betrayal: how people feel about a group they belong to and are willing to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the group
  4. Authority vs. subversion: people’s attitudes toward social hierarchy and respect for leadership, tradition and authority
  5. Purity vs. degradation: people’s feelings about virtue like sanctity

After the last few years, this is not necessarily a surprise. To an extent, the divide occurs along party lines. For example, the American Press Institute reports that Democrats are seven times more likely to trust mainstream media than Republicans, and independent voters are four times as likely. Other interesting findings include the following:

  • Only 1 in 5 journalism values tested – factualism – is supported by the majority of Americans. The one value that 67% agree on is that facts get us closer to the true.
  • Only 11% of Americans fully support all five of the journalism values tested.
  • Only 29% agree that a good way to improve society is to highlight its problems.
  • People who value loyalty and authority the most are less likely than others to endorse that a watchdog is needed to oversee the government and those in power.

What does all this mean and what can we do about it? Review a detailed analysis of the survey and the findings at

The Alden-Tribune Publishing Saga Continues

Just when we thought there was light at the end of the tunnel, Swiss billionaire and philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss backed out of his partnership with Stewart Bainum to buy Tribune Publishing for $18.50 per share, a “superior proposal” to Alden’s offer at $17.25 per share in cash. This means their “superior proposal” is no more. The Associated Press said that Wyss changed it his mind because it would take too much money to turn the Chicago Tribune into a nationwide newspaper, which is what he had hoped to achieve. Though Bainum seeks another partner, Tribune is committed to Alden’s February proposal in which Alden would buy Tribune Publishing for $17.25 per share in cash.

In response to this development, Tribune Publishing released this statement on April 19:

“In light of Mr. Bainum’s April 17 letter, the special committee of Tribune’s board of directors, in consultation with its legal and financial advisors, has determined that the Newslight proposal would no longer reasonably be expected to lead to a “Superior Proposal,” as defined in Tribune’s merger agreement with affiliates of Alden Global Capital LLC (“Alden”) (the “Alden Merger Agreement”). As such, Tribune is no longer permitted to engage in discussions and negotiations with, or provide diligence information to, Newslight and its principals in connection with their proposal, and accordingly has terminated such discussions and negotiations with, and access to diligence information for, Newslight and its principals,” Tribune said.

They also said, “…at this time, the Tribune Board continues to recommend, and has not withdrawn, qualified or otherwise modified its recommendation, that stockholders of Tribune vote in favor of the approval of the Alden Merger Agreement.”

If Alden succeeds in purchasing Tribune Publishing and its assets, there is likely to be bloodshed across the organization’s newspapers. Alden has a history of acquiring newspaper and media groups, slashing costs and cutting staff to turn a quick profit. There is fear in the industry and particularly among staff at the revered legacy newspapers like the Chicago Tribune that their fate will be sealed with Alden at the helm.

Preview: The Essential Subscription Data Guide by Sublytics, Chapter 2

Earlier this month, we offered a free sneak peek at chapter 1 of The Essential Subscription Data Guide published by Sublytics. The first chapter focused on customer retention and the importance of defining what success looks like for your subscription company. Here we offer a preview of chapter 2: a deep dive into customer lifetime value, or LTV as it is often known.

Lifetime value is one of the most important metrics a subscription company can use to measure their success. In its simplest form, LTV is calculated by taking total revenue earned and dividing by the total number of customers.

“When determining what your revenue metric is in this formula, make sure you are aligned with your stakeholders. Some companies use Gross Revenue while others use Net Revenue. Net Revenue can be calculated differently depending on the company, so be sure to align this definition with the rest of your financial statements,” says Sublytics.

For more precise analytics, Sublytics suggests you adapt the formula to include average retention rate or you examine lifetime value for a particular period of time.

For example: Lifetime Value = ($900,000 / 500 Total Customers) * 65% = $1,170.

Two of the most common mistakes subscription companies make when analyzing LTV are:

  • Assuming longer lifetime values and retention rates
  • Not considering costs (using Gross Revenue rather than Net Revenue)

To read more of Chapter 2, visit

Jeff Bezos’s Final Letter to Shareholders

In February, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he would be stepping away from his role as CEO in the third quarter of this year. He will be replaced by Andy Jassy, who currently heads Amazon Web Services (AWS). Last week, he penned his final letter to shareholders with some interesting information. When he wrote his first letter to shareholders in 1997, Amazon had expanded from 158 employees to 614, and the company had 1.5 million customer accounts. At that time, Amazon stock was valued at $1.50 per share.

The company now has 1.3 million direct employees and 200 million Prime customers around the world. More than 1.9 million small and medium-sized businesses sell via the Amazon marketplace which comprises about 60% of the company’s retail sales. AWS serves millions of customers and ended last year with an annualized run rate of $50 billion. They have also created $1.6 trillion for shareholders. The company’s net income in 2020 was $21.3 billion. Last year, employees earned $80 billion, plus $11 billion in benefits and payroll taxes.

Bezos imparted some of the wisdom he’s gained over the years, including this: “If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with.”

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon

He also talked about the company’s climate pledge, employee safety, employee dissatisfaction, the recent union votes, and being original and distinctive.

“We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. We are all taught to “be yourself.” What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.

You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The fairy tale version of “be yourself” is that all the pain stops as soon as you allow your distinctiveness to shine. That version is misleading. Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously.

The world will always try to make Amazon more typical – to bring us into equilibrium with our environment. It will take continuous effort, but we can and must be better than that,” Bezos said.

Bezos is, indeed, distinctive, and while his successor will undoubtedly make his own mark on the company and continue Amazon’s trajectory upward, the company isn’t perfect. There is work to be done to keep employees safe, satisfied and willing to go the extra mile for their customers.

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