Tinder to add video dating next quarter, after slowing user growth due to coronavirus

Sarah Perez

Tinder will add a video dating feature in the second quarter of this year, parent company Match announced on Tuesday as part of its Q1 2020 earnings report. The company also detailed the coronavirus impact, which slowed Tinder user growth in the quarter, as social distancing requirements and government lockdowns went into effect.

Match didn't go into detail about its plans for video dating, but noted it has been testing the waters with video in its Plenty of Fish app. In the quarter, it accelerated the rollout of a one-to-many live-streaming feature that has so far exceeded its expectations, the company said,

"As daters demonstrated strong willingness to video-date, our product and engineering teams around the world mobilized quickly to deploy one-to-one video chat capabilities on many of our platforms," wrote Match Group CEO Shar Dubey, in the letter to shareholders.

Match-owned Hinge also introduced a video call feature called Date from Home this month.

But the company's flagship dating service Tinder had not yet embraced video -- despite the fact that its direct competitor Bumble has offered video for a year, and Facebook is launching virtual dating via Messenger for its Facebook Dating users.

Match explained the reason for its hesitance on video during its earnings calls with investors, saying that video features had been tried over the years, but never saw much adoption. The company believes that will change now, as "users are being forced to use it." Users will see the benefits and likely continue to use video when the pandemic is over, the company said.

Overall, Match had a solid Q1 with revenue growth of 17% year-over-year to $545 million, and earnings per share growth of 31% to 55 cents. Both beat Wall Street expectations of $544.9 million and 34 cents per share, respectively.

But there were numerous signs of how the coronavirus took its toll on online dating.

Users' unwillingness to go on in-person dates -- the ultimate goal of online dating -- led to Tinder seeing first-time sequential subscriber declines from February to March, before things started to stabilize in April, Match said.

The majority of Match's non-Tinder brands saw sequential declines in first-time subscribers in March as well, the company added.

Tinder ended the quarter with 6 million subscribers, up from 5.9 million in December 2019 -- meaning it only added 100,000 new subscribers in the quarter. In the year-ago quarter, it had added 384,000 paid users. Tinder's average revenue per user (ARPU) grew just 2%, mainly due to purchases of à la carte features.

The company also admitted it was "seeing some headwinds to ARPU" on Tinder due to fewer of those à la carte purchases and shifts to lower-priced subscriptions.

Despite these challenges, Tinder grew its direct revenue by 31% year-over-year and saw 28% year-over-year growth in subscribers. Non-Tinder brands saw direct revenue growth of just 2% year-over-year, and flat subscriber growth, by comparison.

"Tinder clearly remains a go-to app for meeting new people, which has become an even more critical service with so many people stuck at home," noted Dubey, optimistically.

Like many other companies, Match declined to offer a full-year financial outlook, saying there were too many unknowns with regard to the pandemic.