Netflix was the top earning app of 2017 that wasn’t a mobile game, according to Sensor Tower’s new year-end report on the most successful apps and publishers across Apple’s App Store and Google Play. In previous years, the top spot had gone to Spotify, and before that, LINE. But this was Netflix’s year to shine. The service saw gross subscriber revenue of approximately $510 million – a 138 percent increase over last year – per the firm’s estimates. That’s about 2.4 times the $215 million users spent in the Netflix app in 2016.
It’s not surprising to see Netflix snagging this top-grossing position. The app has been at the top of the revenue charts at various points throughout 2017. For example, in Q2 Sensor Tower had reported the app saw 233 percent revenue growth year-over-year to $153 million, which was then up from the $46 million it had seen at the same time last year.
At the time, Netflix was reporting a surge in international subscribers, which were accounting for the majority of its new signups. These new users are often joining Netflix through their phone and paying through in-app purchases.
By its Q3 2017 earnings reported in October, Netflix had gone on to beat its own expectations for subscriber growth, again thanks to its adoption in international markets. Of the 5.3 million new subscribers in the quarter, 850,000 came from the U.S. while 4.45 million came from international markets.
The Netflix app was also the top earner across all of Apple’s App Store. But on Google Play, it ranked below Tiner, Google Drive, LINE, Pandora, and HBO NOW.
Another notable app success last year was Tencent Video. In 2016, it was the #14 top grossing app (non-game) by revenue on the App Store alone. This past year, it jumped up to #3 by revenue on the App Store, and #5 in overall revenue across both stores. (If Google Play was available in China, things would probably look a lot different, too.)
In terms of downloads, however, the top app list was dominated by Facebook.
This year, Facebook’s main app lost the number one spot to WhatsApp as it sank to #3. Messenger and Instagram followed, and Snapchat was in fifth place.
Sensor Tower’s report analyzed mobile games separately.
Mixi’s Monster Strike was the top grossing mobile game in 2017 – a position it’s now held for three years in a row. Tencent’s Honor of Kings earned second place, but again, because Google Play isn’t in China.
The games list is interesting for other reasons, as well. The one-time hit Pokémon Go didn’t make the top 10, but five year-old Candy Crush Saga did (#5). That goes to show that even though games is largely a hits-based business, it’s possible to have staying power in the market, too.
Tencent’s success in gaming and with Tencent Video also helped it become the top mobile publisher for both game and non-game revenue in 2017.
Image credits, including charts: Sensor Tower
Updated, 1/12/17, 9 PM ET to show Facebook as #3 in non-game overall downloads due to an error on Sensor Tower’s original graph, now replaced.
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