On-demand streaming is fundamentally changing the way people consume and process what used to be thought of as “TV.”
There are now dozens of streaming services with a handful working to dominate the landscape, notably Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and now Disney+, which launched last month right after Apple TV+.
Other major services coming down the pike in 2020: HBO Max, NBCU’s Peacock, Discovery streaming and the oddly-named Quibi.
“The market is extremely fragmented and complicated,” said Dan Rayburn, a streaming media expert and principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a market research company out of Santa Clara, Calif. “There are so many services and so many more coming. Consumers have to figure out what to watch and what they are willing to pay.”
The average American now subscribes to 1.7 streaming services, according to an October 2019 study by Limelight Networks, a Scottsdale, Ariz. company which provides content delivery network services used to send out digital media content and software. The survey indicated that more than 80 percent of Americans subscribe to at least one service while 30 percent subscribe to three or more.
Michael Milligan, Limelight’s senior director for product and solution marketing, said 62 percent of Americans who have at least one streaming service still subscribe to cable, according to the survey. So he still sees massive potential growth in streaming.
But how much is enough - or too much already?
“I have premium streaming fatigue already,” said Jeff Leiboff, a 50-year-old Atlanta graphic designer, who subscribes to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and cable. “It’s the wild west out there right now. I think it will come down to like three majors with all the rest being absorbed or disappearing. It can't happen soon enough in my opinion.”
Bundling is already happening where it’s feasible. For instance, Disney is promoting a Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu bundle for $12.99 a month.
Rayburn said he expects heavy “churn” as picky consumers jump from one service to another to pluck out the best original content, then move on to another service until the prior service “replenishes.” Unlike pay cable, switching streaming services is relatively easy.
Any given month, roughly 10% of members quit streaming services - double the rate of other entertainment services such as music or video games, according to Recurly, which provides billing assistance to the industry.
Here is a quick take on nine current and upcoming major streaming services.
Known as: The originator and kingmaker
U.S. subscribers: 60.62 million as of October 31, 2019 with 158.3 million internationally
Price: $8.99 to $15.99 depending on quality and number of simultaneous streams
Notable content: Its originals include “Stranger Things,” “Ozark” and “The Crown,” plus big-budget films such as “The Irishman,” “The Marriage Story” and “Dolemite Is My Name.” While Netflix loses “Friends” this year, it picks up “Seinfeld” in 2021. The film library has shrunken 40% over five years as companies launch their own services.
Strategy: Keep spending billion each year to produce more original content as access to acquired film and TV shows drops. Also focus on building the international audience, where there is greater room for growth.
Known as: that service that’s been around a long time and is where to watch network TV shows the day after they first air
U.S. subscribers: 28 million
Price: $5.99 with ads, $11.99 without
Notable content: It has current (and some past) seasons of shows from ABC, NBC, and Fox such as “Grey’s Anatomy,” “This is Us” and “Empire.” There are also originals such as dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale,” coming-of-age “Pen15” and horror “Castle Rock.” Current film options include “Booksmart,” “Wall Street,” “Kill Bill Volume 1,” “Shrek” and “Boyz n the Hood.”
Strategy: Now owned solely by Disney, this service provides broader, more adult options than Disney+. But the NBC shows will likely end up at Peacock at some point.
Known as: that extra service you have besides your coveted free shipping
U.S. subscribers: estimated to exceed 100 million
Price: $12.99 a month or $119 a year.
Notable content: Originals such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “The Boys,” “Modern Love” and “Goliath.” Current films include “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Creed II” and “Mission Impossible Fallout.”
Strategy: It’s part of a way to get consumers to remain loyal to Amazon on a multitude of fronts- and maybe get them to pay extra streaming content that isn’t free.
Known as: the family-friendly option
U.S. subscribers: Ten million plus, based on the last update Disney has given
Price: $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year (Verizon customers with high-value plans can get a year for free)
Notable content: Almost everything Disney has released the past nine decades, plus “The Simpsons,” all the Pixar films, endless “Star Wars” options and the big Marvel movies. Original content includes the popular original series “The Mandalorian,” the meta “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and heartwarming “Encore!” where Kristin Bell reunites old high school theater groups to re-enact their original musicals from back when.
Strategy: Provide a ton of must-watch content at a reasonable price.
Known as: an add-on for any fan of Apple products
U.S. subscribers: Too soon to say
Price: Anyone who buys a new Apple device will get a year for free. Otherwise, it’s $4.99 a month
Notable shows: “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Aniston, alt-universe drama “For All Mankind,” comedic “Dickinson,” Jason Mamoa sci-fi drama “See” and documentary “The Elephant Queen.” There is no back catalog of past movies and TV shows.
Strategy: “They are trying to create their own Apple eco-system,” said Rayburn - not compete directly with Netflix.
CBS All Access
Known as: a single broadcast network’s stand-alone option but at least the one with a stable of very popular shows
U.S. subscribers: 8 million as of February, 2019
Price: $5.99 per month, $9.99 with no commercials, 15% off if you pay for an entire year
Notable shows: All broadcast CBS shows including NCIS” “Survivor” and “Young Sheldon” plus originals such as “The Good Fight,” “Why Women Kill” and “Star Trek Discovery”
Strategy: Fuzzy unless the company eventually latches on to a larger service.
These three services are coming in 2020
What is it: A robust WarnerMedia service set to debut May, 2020
Estimated price: $14.99 a month. Current HBO Now customers who have subscribed directly through HBONow.com will be able to access HBO Max for free.
What will it provide? Most everything from HBO’s library from “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Game of Thrones.” Two of the biggest sitcoms of recent decades in “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory,” plus the entire library of “South Park,” “Rick and Morty” and “Sesame Street. All of what used to be Turner network products from TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, et. al. The network plans 50 original series within its first year of service, with 31 in 2020 alone.
Strategy: Overwhelm the competition with quality and quantity.
What is it: A streaming-video platform created by former Disney and DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg set to launch April 6, 2020. The twist: each episode should take 10 minutes or less.
Projected pricing: $4.99 a month with ads, $7.99 without.
What will it provide? Plenty of projects of all sorts by big names such as Anna Kendrick, Kevin Hart, Chrissy Teigen, Idris Elba, Tyra Banks and Jennifer Lopez. There will be reality, competition shows and scripted offerings.
Strategy: Hopes to differentiate itself from the others by tapping into American’s short-attention span mentality.
What is it: Comcast/NBCUniversal’s entry into the streaming world in April, 2020
Pricing: Will be free for Comcast subscribers. Details of broader pricing options will be out next month with rumors an ad-supported version might be free for all.
What will it provide? “Parks and Recreation” migrates from Netflix in October, 2020. “The Office” arrives from Netflix in 2021. Other series: “Frasier,” ‘Downton Abbey,” “30 Rock,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Psych,” “Saturday Night Live,” “House,” “Friday Night Lights.” Originals include a second reboot of “Battlestar Galactica” and reboots of “Punky Brewster” and “Saved by the Bell.” Films such as the “Bourne” and “Fast & Furious” series, plus “Bridesmaids,” “E.T.” and “Jaws.”
Strategy: A lower-cost option with a mix of broadcast and original programs.
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