This Week in Apps - Streaming Success!
This Week in Apps is a short, no-fluff, round-up of interesting things that happened in the mobile industry. Here are our top highlights.
U.S. Revenue Index (vs. 30 days ago)
1. Touchdown Peacock! Everyone Paid to Stream Football Last Weekend
Streamer Peacock is having a blast growing up, and it looks like it found a great growth engine - Sports.
This weekend, Peacock took things to the next level.
For the first time, a first-round NFL playoff game was only available via a streaming platform and not on TV (unless you're in Kansas City or Miami).
Similar things have happened before, and the result was usually a lot of frustration as servers crashed and users weren't able to watch the game. But not this time!
This time, everything worked - and people didn't think twice before giving Peacock their money.
Thanks to the exclusive, Peacock made the most money, ever, in a single day!
How much? $2.7M according to our estimates. And that's net revenue, which means what NBC gets to keep after Apple and Google take their fees.
Although that's not enough to cover the more than $100M NBC had to shell out to get the exclusive rights to this game, it's an aggressive move in a space that's still fairly open for dominance. A move that could soon make Peacock the highest-earning streamer in the US.
Peacock isn't too far off, and with this spike, it far outpaced both. If only for a day.
It took Peacock a bit to figure things out, but between TV shows, movies, and sports, it's very clear the team behind it gets content. That's the ticket to the streaming race in 2024. I expect this growth to continue and even speed up this year.
2. Bye Bye Artifact - The AI News Feed That Couldn't
Last year, the founders of Instagram - yes, the Instagram - launched a brand new social app. Didn't hear about it? Well, this was a news app.
Artifact puts an AI and social spin on news by creating a custom news feed and adding social features like comments and upvotes to news articles.
Well, I should say "was" because Artifact just announced it's shutting down next month.
Why? Lack of demand. Let's have a look at the downloads.
News is a weird category to compete in because most people simply don't care enough and others care too much. From a business standpoint, you have to have something really novel to compete (and potentially beat) Apple and Google, not to mention a bunch of already-known news outlets.
Looking at the downloads, Artifact didn't.
According to our estimates, Artifact had a total of 444K downloads from the App Store and Google Play between its public release in February and December. To put that in context, SmartNews, a similar competitor, saw 2M downloads in the same period.
Artifact launched with a lot of buzz which led to a little more than 100K downloads in February, according to our estimates. But the trend turned negative by month two with downloads dropping rapidly.
By April, downloads dropped to 46K, and by June, to just 20K.
Competing with native options from Apple and Google without being muuuch better is tough, and that's what we see in these numbers.
In a statement on Medium, the team said "we have concluded that the market opportunity isn’t big enough to warrant continued investment in this way." And looking at the downloads it's very clear there was no product-market fit for Artifact.
Blaming the market is a lazy out though. Looking at trends of similar apps, this could have been clear before Artifact began development and examining them after launch could pushed Artifact to focus on what users really wanted.
The real trap too many fall into is building blindly and not looking at the market or the competition. I hope you're not doing that.
3. This is Why Mosaic Dumped its Portfolio for $100M
Last week, Bending Spoons, the Italian app publisher that recently acquired Evernote, acquired a portfolio of apps for just $100M. I say just because that's not a lot of money considering the IP being sold.
The portfolio of apps, which was owned by Mosaic, included a few known names which got me curious - was the price tag worth it?
So I dug into the data and it's weird...
Mosaic's portfolio contains iOS 16 apps and 10 Android apps. Its leading earners include a translation app (iTranslate), a weather tracker (Clime), a spam call protector (RoboKiller), a PDF scanner (ScanHero), and even a plan tracker, an app for fasting, and more. It's really all over the place.
According to our estimates, the portfolio earned $57M in net revenue in 2020, which is what's left after Apple and Google take their fees.
By that number, Bending Spoons made an amazing deal. And yes, I know this is revenue and not profit.
But 2021 wasn't nearly as good. Revenue across the portfolio dropped a whopping 27% to $42M. The leak slowed down in 2022 but revenue still went down 9% to $38M.
And you can probably guess where this is going. Revenue in 2023 was down even more as the portfolio ended the year with $33M, according to our estimates.
If you're doing the math, that's a 42% drop since 2020. By this number, the deal isn't nearly as good.
So why did Bending Spoons do it?
- A massive user base - Our estimates show apps in the portfolio were downloaded more than 220M times since 2020. Bending Spoons might have a better idea for how to monetize these users.
- Paying users - The portfolio is already earning money. Although the trend is negative, there are still thousands of users who are paying. If Bending Spoons can right the ship (or get those users to pay more) the net result could be positive.
- Top contenders across multiple categories - The portfolio contains several apps that are very popular in their category. Acquiring them means Bending Spoons becomes the leader immediately and has a platform to get more out of the category.
- China - I saved the most interesting for last! When I dug into where the portfolio is making money from I noticed a surprising pattern. China is the highest or second-highest earner for many apps. Not all, but enough.
China is a big market that's growing fast. Acquiring the portfolio gives Bending Spoons a huge head start in China and also a lot of insight into spending patterns which they can use to improve other apps in their portfolio. It's a massive advantage for the company that collects apps like Evernote. More on Evernote next week.
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4. Twitter's Revenue Crossed a Big Milestone in December
December is behind us which means it's time to check in on Twitter's mobile revenue, a monthly series I started back in 2019, when Twitter Blue launched.
Twitter is now X, and X has crossed a big milestone in December!
According to our estimates, X earned $7.6M of net revenue in December. That's a 22% increase from November's total, which was already higher.
It also happens to be the most X has ever earned in a single month! And that's net revenue, which means what X gets to keep after Apple and Google take their share.
In terms of consumer spending, or gross revenue as developers see it, users gave X $11M. December is the first double-digit month for spending on X. That's a milestone.
The US continues to be X's biggest market with a 60% share of the total with no other country having a double-digit share. Japan comes close with 8% with the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Canada rounding out the top 5. Yes, Saudi Arabia.
Considering nothing major has changed with X in December, revenue growth is a good proxy for both engagement and demand - both climbing.
With an election coming, I expect this revenue to continue growing faster.
5. The Game That Could Have Been the Next Angry Birds But Wasn't...
If you've been around long enough to remember the humble beginnings of Angry Birds you'll remember a game that was fun but nothing too too spectacular. But it got viral in the early days of the iPhone and the team behind it made a lot of good decisions that helped it become, and stay, a household name for many many years.
Not many games got that sort of virality after, but in 2020, one game did - Among us.
Among us went viral in October of 2020, deep into lockdown season, thanks to gamers streaming it on Twitch.
The game wasn't completely unknown before though. According to our estimates, Among us was averaging 1.2M downloads per month in 2019.
But downloads started rising exponentially as lockdowns started. Downloads doubled by July, then tripled in August, and then ballooned to 70M in October.
The majority of downloads came from Google Play with the US, India, and Brazil being the largest countries. Each had aabout a 10% share. That's not a big surprise for a game.
Success didn't last too long though. Downloads dropped to 24M by January of 2021 and ended 2021 in the single-digit millions. 2022 was pretty much the same, and in 2023 downloads got cut by half again.
Why? lack of change. The game didn't evolve much in this time, the community didn't remain engaged, and the company didn't push beyond enjoying the viral success.
Also, the money. But before we get to that let's total it all up. Our estimates show Among us made its way into 550M devices since 2020.
Revenue followed downloads pretty tightly.
Before going viral, the game was earning about $25K per month. And that's net which means what InnerSloth, the makers of Among us, got to keep after store fees.
Fast forward to October of 2020 and our estimates show revenue shot up to $9.7M. That's an increase of 38,700%, in case you're into big numbers. Just wow!
But like downloads, the fun didn't continue... By January revenue dropped to $2.9M and by mid-2021, revenue plummeted to just $228K. Yes, hundreds not millions. And the fall didn't stop there - by the end of 2023, revenue dropped below $100K.
I'll put on my judgy hat and say this was a missed opportunity.
Going viral is a combination of luck and having a good product, but turning temporary virality into sustained success requires a lot of hard work. Your app may never go viral, but if it does, you better be ready.
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All figures included in this report are estimated. Unless specified otherwise, estimated revenue is always net, meaning it's the amount the developer earned after Apple and Google took their fee.