In early August Disney announced it will be withdrawing all of its content from Netflix from 2019. The company plans to start up its own streaming service incorporating its giant library of content. The announcement hit the entertainment industry like an atomic bomb. This was one of the world's biggest content providers saying it was going to go its own way.
So just how much more fragmented can the streaming world get before consumers turn sour?
Netflix, Amazon and Apple ... Oh my ...
The dominance of Netflix over the past few years has turned many heads in the business. Not only with how quickly audiences have flocked to streaming as a serious mode of media viewing, but also in its giant spending on producing original content. As Netflix paved the way, others have followed, and now we have an assortment of different streaming services, all clamoring for content, and all asking for a simple monthly subscription fee.
Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are the biggest players, while an assortment of smaller companies are also now offering content on a subscription or pay-per-view basis. With every content producer wanting its own piece of the pie we see new deals inked every day.
Comcast has teamed up with AMC and FX to create AMC Premiere and FX+, both new subscription services offering the network's content on-demand. Even the old-fashioned networks are getting in on the game. CBS, for example, is offering CBS All Access, streaming all its library of shows on-demand for just $5.99 a month.
Get ready for even more content to come at you soon with Netflix upping its original content production budget to a record $7 billion in 2018, while Amazon is set to drop $4.5 billion into making new content over the next twelve months. Even Apple is getting into the streaming game, announcing an upcoming spend of $1 billion to either acquire or produce up to 10 new shows to be distributed through iTunes. Oh, and don't forget Facebook. It recently announced a new TV platform called Watch. A variety of new shows will be specifically produced for Watch, and you won't even need to pay anything to view. Facebook is just happy to keep you inside its ecosystem that little bit longer.
How much is too much?
The so-called new golden age of television is quickly turning into a murky quagmire of excessive content and absolute fragmentation. The promise of internet streaming just a decade ago was glorious. Watch whatever you want, whenever you want, at just the click of a button. And that promise has been suitably filled – in a way … if you can find who is streaming it, and subscribe.
How many monthly subscriptions are you willing to sign up for?
These $10 or $15 subscriptions all add up, and while they still may add up to less than you were paying monthly in the glory days of expensive cable TV, how many bills a month do you want on your plate?
Fifty-four percent of millennials, the generation that took up the streaming trend most swiftly, currently subscribe to one or two streaming services, according to a recent Morning Consult poll. But things drop off quickly when you ask people to sign up to more services. A whopping 73 percent of millennials said they wished everything they wanted to watch was just on a single service.
It seems around two streaming subscriptions is the sweet spot, with three pushing the limits for most. And don't forget all those other subscriptions you have signed up for from AppleMusic, Spotify and Tidal to fill your music needs to whatever variety of news websites that you read.
In the world of TV and film this increasing trend of fragmentation will make it more difficult for audiences to work out what they want to watch and where it can be found.
Where to from here?
Consolidation seems like the obvious solution, bundling up several streaming services into one larger overall subscription. The last 20 years of the cable model has demonstrated that this solution doesn't really work. For a couple of decades cable bundles became increasingly bulky and expensive leaving audiences paying upwards of $100 a month for scores of channels playing content they were ultimately just not interested in. If any lesson could be learned from the recent downward trend in cable audience sign-ups it is that consumers want streamlined services rather than an overwhelming diaspora of channels and content.
But what is the alternative? Kneeling at the alter of a singular monopoly that controls all media? This surely would be the preferred outcome for the Netflix behemoth, but a single monopolizing entity has never proven to be a positive outcome in any industry.
The only thing we can really be sure of is that the next 5 to 10 years will be a messy and frustrating time for audiences. We may have more television shows being made than ever, but the golden promise of internet streaming is rapidly souring and the worst is yet to come.