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The hyper-fragmented mess of streaming TV ... and how it's only getting worse

The hyper-fragmented mess of s...
The so-called new golden age of television is quickly turning into a murky quagmire of excessive content and absolute fragmentation
The so-called new golden age of television is quickly turning into a murky quagmire of excessive content and absolute fragmentation
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The so-called new golden age of television is quickly turning into a murky quagmire of excessive content and absolute fragmentation
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The so-called new golden age of television is quickly turning into a murky quagmire of excessive content and absolute fragmentation
How many monthly subscriptions are you willing to sign up for?
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How many monthly subscriptions are you willing to sign up for?

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 many monthly subscriptions are you willing to sign up for?
How many monthly subscriptions are you willing to sign up for?

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.

14 comments
zephcom
The solution is really simple in theory. It is most likely difficult to put into action given the greed of most corporations. The solution is to establish a fee that is legally recognized as full payment for watching something over the Internet. The fee is paid monthly to a single clearing house which has the right to monitor one's viewing. The fee is split among those shows which people watch regardless of where on the Internet they acquire the show. Piracy disappears for those paying the fee. Money comes into the show producers for doing nothing more than making a good show and making it available on the Internet.
Brian M
@zephcom - Of course two main issues with that 1. Who owns the clearing house, that in its self becomes a monopoly! 2. The idea of having an organisation monitor everything watched is not particularly enticing and will be misused. Suspect consumers will be the final arbiter here. More than two subscription and think subscribers will walk - Plus Netflix and Amazon are making content a lot more watchable than some the other studios! As for Disney - a pretty daft move, wonder if Goofy was involved in that one!
f8lee
Methinks it's time to dump the boob tube (er, the moron's flat panel?) altogether and go outside and Do Something.
Airdropper
COX cable is fighting back. They placed a 1-Terabyte limit per month on all internet accounts. That only adds up to 200 3-minute videos. The penalties for going over is $10 for every 50 megabytes. Ouch.
Bob Flint
I've already stopped watching TV years ago, so I don't really care about what streaming suppliers come to be, occasionally I watch a movie from my collection, and once or twice a month see a new release in the theaters. Online or radio (remember that medium) for news, & weather.
zephcom
@Brian M 1. No. The clearing house does not become a monopoly because it would not control any product. It's only purpose is to distribute the fee money equitably to the companies owning the shows a subscriber watches. Under ideal conditions, it would be owned by government. However a cooperative company owned and operated by the various players in media could also work. A model for this is how the record industry deals with radio stations. ASCAP and BMI license radio stations to play their music. In return the radio station pays a licensing fee to each. And they distribute the fees to the copyright holders based on frequency of play on the air. The frequency of play on the air is determined by annual 'weeks' when a random selection of stations are required to log all their music played. What I'm suggesting is a license for private use that covers the media we watch regardless of where we find it. We foot the cost of getting the media, be it the Internet, a thumb drive, or whatever, they get paid for the work they have done to make the media. 2. Hopefully the monitoring software will be required by law to only provide the necessary data to facilitate getting the money to the proper people. It should be made open source and produced in such a manner that any and every media software can install it easily. But let's face reality here, we do not have control over -anything- our computers do on the Internet right now. This would simply be one more thing watching what we do. Make the code open source so anyone can review it. There will always be someone looking at it. We have the technology now to allow people to create an ala-carte viewing which goes clear down to a single show on a network. The creators of that show deserve to be paid. But the entire network doesn't deserve to funnel that money into shows we don't watch. That is exactly what all these companies are trying to force onto us with their fees to open their entire network. And the costs become prohibitive to subscribe to each network which provides only one show we will watch. THAT creates the environment in which piracy thrives. My suggestion is a way to change that environment to one which allows the producers to get paid for their product. In America alone there is likely a potential of 70-80 million households which -could- be convinced to pay maybe $50 EVERY MONTH for a license fee which would protect them from piracy charges. We are talking huge amounts of money for these producers and it is not being tapped.
Edward Vix
Not a "diaspora". Maybe more like a miasma?
Aross
Like Bob I too have stopped subscribing to and watching TV etc. delivered by the media giants. I watch over the air programs on local channels and if I want to see a movie I go to the local library to rent them. For me the quality of current programming and the quantity of what I enjoy watching has been so downgraded that other than the news there is not much out there worth paying for. Besides I know a number of people in the entertainment business such as actors, animators (both 2D and 3D) and musicians, from whom I have come to know how little the creative folks benefit from their stuff. It is the fat cat whiners who do nothing but rake in the cash from their exorbitant fees and complain when the people rebel and start pirating stuff who have chased me away. I know of several not famous musicians who stream their creations online and are in fact making more money from donations than they ever did in royalties. So setting up another middle man to me would be stupid and just drive up the cost to the consumer.
FabianLamaestra
I like the system the way it is, more competition. If you have a central Clearinghouse, who's to say that they can't up the price whenever they want just like the cable companies. Competition means lower prices and better service. So there's a little fragmentation, big deal.
zephcom
There is really very little competition now. A few major studios control nearly everything being played today. This system resulted in an incredibly bad movie winning six Oscars this year. OTOH Indie movies have been turning out incredible movies which are almost never seen in mainstream theaters. I stumbled across a movie a few weeks ago made in 2010 called "Deuce of Spades" which wasn't even made on a shoe-string. It was made on a piece of a shoe-string. It was a great movie. If it is competition you want, licensing private use of any media with the money going to the people who make the movie will allow people who don't have access to the main stream movie theaters to market their wares and get paid for their work. And it fits the need of only having one monthly bill instead lots of monthly bills.