By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
121 Million Hours of Listening in Q2In its second-quarter report today (August 6), Sweden’s Storytel–the international marketplace’s most aggressively expansive service in the audiobook field–has reported streaming sales up 19 percent over Q2 2020 and a deepening subscriber base that jumped 29 percent year-over-year.
An understandable point of pride leads the report from Jonas Tellander and his team in Stockholm, writing to shareholders, “On July 20, 2021, Storytel met yet another important milestone when the service surpassed 1 million paying subscribers in the Nordic region.” Always loyal base of operations to Storytel, the Nordic markets clearly have established themselves now as a secure, responsive foundation for the company’s growth.
That milestone of 1 million Nordic subscribers, the company writes, “indicates an average penetration level of the adult population in the Nordic countries of 5 percent. With an 18-percent subscriber growth and 16-percent revenue growth year-over-year in Q2 2021, the Nordic countries form a solid and profitable base for continuous growth.”
Outside the Nordic concentration, Storytel saw an average 643,300 paying subscribers in its second quarter. It’s interesting to watch the company make pricing adjustments in its 25 markets, some of them quite distinct in their challenges—especially during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, and always watching average revenue per user as a guide.
In its home market of Sweden, Storytel raised its price from 169 to 179 kroner (US$19.49 to $20.65). There were also 9-percent price hikes in the Netherlands (both on unlimited and family subscription models) and a 6-percent rise in price in Belgium. Even in hard-hit India—where prices of books and digital media products run far lower than in many other markets of the world–Storytel was able to make an 18-percent price raise on some products.
By contrast, “The price in Spain,” today’s report reads, “has been lowered from €12.99 to €10.99 (US$15.28 to $12.92) to better reflect the reduced purchasing power in the country.”
Indeed, the Spanish-language markets of Spain and Latin America seem to be producing what today’s report calls “slower growth than anticipated. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to have an adverse effect on performance, resulting in a flat development of subscribers in Latin America and Spain f0r the past year.”
Spotify Partnership Ahead
On the broader scale, it’s still expected that we’ll see a rollout this year of the partnership with Spotify announced by Storytel on May 20. “We want everyone to have access to great stories,” Tellander said at the time, “and today Storytel offers more than 500,000 audiobooks on a global basis across 25 markets. Partnering with Spotify make amazing audiobook experiences and exciting author [content] easier than ever to access for our customers, while we will also be tapping into the opportunity of reaching new audiences who are on Spotify today, but have not yet experienced the magic of audiobooks.”
Clearly a win-win in the making, plan has been to have Storytel subscribers able to reach their audiobooks via Spotify “later in 2021.”
Today’s report revises full-year 2021 guidance to 2.25 to 230 billion Swedish kroner (US$259.5 billion to $265.3 billion) in streaming revenue, translated to an expected growth of between 20 and 22 percent.
The subscriber base is anticipated at year’s end at between 1.95 and 2 million paying subscribers worldwide. The company anticipates seeing the Nordic theater as its leading growth edge, and the Spanish-language elements as the most poorly performing sector. A promising new initiative involves offering the unlimited subscription at half price to students, the intent being to capture and cultivate lifelong users who will convert to full payment levels in the future.
And for those who revel in the big numbers of the audio world, Storytel surely delivers in its Q2 report:
- Consumption of content via Storytel came to 121 million hours during the second quarter
- This is called “quite stable from Q1” by the company
- That level of listening time is up 22 percent year-over-year from Q2 2020
- During this year’s second quarter, Storytel released 19,300 hours of content–2,700 hours in the Nordic sector and 16,600 for the non-Nordic listenership
- That level of content release is up 3,300 hours year-over-year from the first quarter of this year and is primarily the result of a launch in Israel, which occasioned the release of 3,400 hours of Hebrew titles
An interesting project is to be led by Anthony Horowitz as he works with a group of writers who will produce new stories featuring Sherlock Holmes for the Storytel Original series. Releases are to be made audio-first in this agreement made with the Conan Doyle Estate in June, the company reports. Expect some of this content in the second quarter of 2022.
More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.