Will corporate consolidation lead to streaming's rise or demise?
In an ironic turn, streaming platforms are now representing all the deficiencies that they originally exploited when they first arose. With the emergence of several new streaming platforms, consumers have a saturated menu of options to choose from, akin to the cable woes of old.
Monolithic companies such as Disney, Apple and WarnerMedia have all announced plans to launch their own streaming platform with exclusive content that they own. Disney’s streaming service, called Disney+, is set to launch on Nov. 12, for $6.99 per month. The general public can already preorder the service, which offers content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and National Geographic.
Major streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime may no longer be the frontrunners of the streaming platform industry. In particular, Netflix’s grip on the content it offers has been increasingly slippery.
It was recently confirmed that popular series "Friends" would be leaving Netflix in 2020, moving to WarnerMedia’s new streaming platform, HBO Max. Beloved shows like "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation" are also set to depart from Netflix, rejoining NBC via its planned streaming platform, Peacock.
Consumers are now presented with a similar dilemma to the one they faced with cable channels. Major television shows and movies are either scattered now among the various platforms or will be in the near future, which will put an inevitable strain on consumers’ wallets. The optimal price households are willing to pay is a combined total of $21 per month, according to a poll from The Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult.
“Realistically you're not going to have a consumer with more than 2 or 3 services per month,” said Dan Rayburn, a streaming media analyst, to WIRED. The sheer amount of streaming platform services can be overwhelming, and since fan-favorites that were usually binge-watched one after another are now becoming increasingly inaccessible, consumers are more likely to lean toward pirated versions of their favorite movies or shows.
But a deeper look into the workings of streaming services will reveal a shockingly new perspective on the borders between the platforms. In May 2019, Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, sold its share of Hulu to Disney, giving the company full operational control of Hulu. Currently, Disney is offering a Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN bundle for $12.99 per month, much like how cable companies bundle hundreds of channels together.
WarnerMedia will also offer a bundle containing HBO, Cinemax and other movies and television belonging to Warner Bros. for a price between $16 and $17 per month. Apple’s new streaming service, Apple TV+, offers a seven-day free trial for customers who purchase an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV or iPod Touch, and starts at a price of $4.99 per month.
The cancellation of net neutrality also deeply affects the birth of these new streaming platforms. WarnerMedia’s new streaming platforms may be given priority on AT&T’s network and purposely slowed down on others, as AT&T owns WarnerMedia. Discounts may be offered for AT&T customers with mobile devices or cable subscriptions, as it already does with AT&T TV NOW on mobile.
Given this information, consumers may consider their mobile or cable providers if or when they are purchasing new subscriptions to emerging streaming services.
Although rival entertainment companies are simultaneously thrusting their unique streaming services into the world and viewers are once again resorting to combing through pirated versions of their desired movies or shows, the diversity of streaming services may not be as negative as it is painted.
Instead of paying more money for channels rarely ever tuned into, consumers are given a choice of narrowing their options to their niche interests. In this way, they mostly pay for what they specifically want. They can pick and choose what they want to pay for with the variety of streaming services more than they could with cable.
The bouquet of streaming platforms may seem, or even be, incredibly expensive at first. But with companies offering bundles, the way streaming services function may evolve into something more favorable to the consumers.
Time will inevitably determine the true reaction to the plethora of streaming platforms as well as their success.
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