The way consumers watch television, movies and other video content has changed dramatically over the past decade, as streaming platforms such as Netflix and YouTube increasingly replace legacy media as the preferred method of video consumption. This shift may present opportunities for investors who can identify which streaming platforms can attract viewers and do so in a profitable way.

Here’s an overview of top streaming stocks and a look at the current streaming landscape.

Top streaming stocks

*Market value as of May 7, 2024.

1. Netflix (NFLX)

Netflix has been a pioneer in the streaming industry, leading a transformation of how consumers are entertained through video. The company boasts about 270 million global subscribers and is one of the few streaming companies to earn meaningful profits.

“Netflix is the leading streaming television platform globally and now enjoys the economic benefits of market-leading scale,” says Morningstar analyst Matthew Dolgin. “We expect this position will persist throughout the next decade.”

  • Market value: $261 billion
  • Annual revenue: $33.7 billion

2. Alphabet (GOOG and GOOGL)

Google’s parent company Alphabet may not be the first company you think of when it comes to streaming, but its YouTube business is a major streaming player, with global viewers watching more than 1 billion hours of YouTube on their TVs every day. The company’s YouTubeTV business, which is a streaming product similar to traditional cable, has more than 8 million subscribers.

  • Market value: $2.1 trillion
  • Annual revenue: $307.4 billion

3. Amazon (AMZN)

Amazon is another tech giant where streaming isn’t its core business, but Amazon Prime Video has grown to be a significant streaming business and a major benefit to Prime subscribers. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy told shareholders that the company has “increasing conviction that Prime Video can be a large and profitable business on its own.”

Amazon recently introduced advertising to Prime Video, which has over 200 million monthly viewers. The company has also entered the live sports market through Thursday Night Football NFL games.

  • Market value: $1.96 trillion
  • Annual revenue: $574.8 billion

4. Disney (DIS)

Disney is one of the legacy media companies that is in the midst of its transition to streaming. Its Disney+ core offering has grown to about 118 million subscribers where consumers pay an average of between $7 and $8 per month for the service. Disney also owns ESPN, a longtime leader in sports entertainment that has its own streaming option, the ABC broadcast network and the Disney channel, which offers kids entertainment.

“These remain very valuable assets that give Disney advantages as the industry evolves, but challenges exist, and we don’t think the new media landscape will be as profitable as the prior one,” Morningstar’s Dolgin says.

  • Market value: $192.1 billion
  • Annual revenue: $88.9 billion

5. Apple (AAPL)

Apple is best known as the maker of iPhones, iPads and Macs, but it has built a substantial streaming business in Apple TV+. The company doesn’t disclose much about the streaming business, but estimates put its paid subscribers around 25 million and more people likely access the service through promotions.

Hit shows like Ted Lasso have brought viewers to the platform and the company has also entered live sports including Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.

  • Market value: $2.8 trillion
  • Annual revenue: $383.3 billion

6. Comcast (CMCSA)

Comcast is another legacy media company trying to transition to a streaming future. It owns brands such as NBC, Telemundo, Universal and Sky and its streaming service Peacock had 31 million paid subscribers at the end of 2023. Peacock generated a loss of about $2.7 billion in 2023.

Comcast has been aggressive about putting live sports on Peacock as a way to gain new subscribers. It put an NFL playoff on the streaming service in early 2024 and also carries college basketball and football games.

  • Market value: $151 billion
  • Annual revenue: $121.6 billion

7. Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD)

Warner Bros. Discovery owns a variety of different media brands including HBO and HBO Max, CNN, Discovery Channel, HGTV, TNT Sports and TBS. It also owns Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings.

Warner Bros. Discovery said it had direct to consumer subscribers of 97.7 million at the end of 2023, but that number includes HBO Max, legacy HBO and discovery+. The company was created in 2022 when Discovery merged with the media business of AT&T.

  • Market value: $19 billion
  • Annual revenue: $41.3 billion

8. Paramount Global (PARA)

Paramount Global owns various media brands including CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central and more. Its Paramount+ streaming business had more than 71 million subscribers at the end of March 2024.

The company is currently entertaining offers on a possible merger, but there’s no guarantee that a deal will be completed. Paramount has held talks with Skydance Media and recently received an all-cash offer from Sony and private equity firm Apollo, according to reports.

  • Market cap: $9.0 billion
  • Annual revenue: $29.7 billion

Video streaming: The current landscape

Netflix began its streaming service in 2007 and has grown to become the clear industry leader. It has about 270 million subscribers around the world (as of March 2024) and earned $5.4 billion in net income during 2023.

Other companies saw the success of Netflix and also entered the streaming business, though few, if any, have seen similar results. Legacy media companies such as Disney and Comcast have launched streaming services, but have mostly generated losses. Large tech companies such as Apple and Amazon have used their massive cash piles to build streaming services with varying degrees of success.

Just this week, Disney reported an increase of more than 6 million subscribers to its core Disney+ offering, and said losses in its streaming business narrowed to $18 million during its most recent quarter, an improvement over the $659 million loss in the same period last year. Still, its stock fell about 10 percent after the company said it didn’t expect subscriber growth in the current quarter and higher costs would hurt profitability.

Meanwhile, Paramount Global is entertaining takeover offers after it struggled to build a profitable streaming business and its cable channels Nickelodeon and MTV deal with the impact of cord cutting. Sony and private-equity firm Apollo made an all-cash offer of $26 billion in early May, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Editorial Disclaimer: All investors are advised to conduct their own independent research into investment strategies before making an investment decision. In addition, investors are advised that past investment product performance is no guarantee of future price appreciation.