The TV-stream­ing para­dox: Why you may miss the ca­ble bun­dle

The Oklahoman - - REAL ESTATE - AP Tech­nol­ogy Writer BY TALI ARBEL

NEW YORK — The fu­ture of TV may well be a mish­mash of stream­ing ser­vices that could ri­val the cost of a $100 ca­ble bun­dle — but that are way more dif­fi­cult to use.

Disney’s plan for two new stream­ing ser­vices (and pos­si­bly more) is just the lat­est sign that ev­ery­one is jump­ing into the stream­ing busi­ness. It in­tends to launch a kids ori­ented movie and TV stream­ing ser­vice in 2019 that will pull Disney and Pixar films from Net­flix, as well as an ESPN side­kick ser­vice (mi­nus pro foot­ball and bas­ket­ball) ex­pected early next year. The com­pany is even ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of sep­a­rate stream­ing ser­vices for its Star Wars and Marvel su­per­hero films.

All of that will sim­ply add to a ca­coph­ony of ex­ist­ing Net­flix-style video ser­vices that let you watch what you want, when you want. More are prob­a­bly on their way, as en­ter­tain­ment com­pa­nies see prof­its in con­trol­ling not only the cre­ation of their films and shows, but also their dis­tri­bu­tion.

The down­side? Po­ten­tially big­ger bills, and more work for peo­ple who just want to find some­thing to watch. “Ul­ti­mately for con­sumers, it means that ex­pe­ri­ence is dread­ful,” says Paolo Pesca­tore, a vice pres­i­dent with re­search firm CCS In­sight.

Find­ing stuff to watch

New Yorker David Berkowitz still pays for ca­ble, streams from Net­flix and Ama­zon, and some­times buys in­di­vid­ual movies from Ama­zon; his three-year-old daugh­ter al­ready watches “Find­ing Dory” and “Find­ing Nemo” on two sep­a­rate ser­vices. The prospect of a new Disney only ser­vice isn’t re­as­sur­ing. “Hav­ing a third thing in the mix seems like a lot to jug­gle,” he says.

To find stuff to watch, Berkowitz’s fam­ily uses a Roku box at­tached to their TV, which sug­gests stream­ing chan­nels the fam­ily may like and lets them search for the shows and movies he wants to watch. There are also web­sites to guide stream­ers, like just­watch.com.

That’s fine if you know what you’re look­ing for. But the mod­ern-day chan­nel surfer has it much harder. “There’s go­ing to be a pro­lif­er­a­tion of niche con­tent,” says Colin Petrie-Nor­ris, CEO of Xumo, a stream­ing-chan­nel provider for smart TVs. “The way for it to be man­aged, find­able for a user — that has not emerged yet.”

Pay­ing the price

Peo­ple quit ca­ble be­cause they can’t jus­tify a $100-and-al­ways-climb­ing monthly pay­ment, es­pe­cially with so much good stuff on cheaper ser­vices. But the cost of mul­ti­ple stream­ing ser­vices adds up, too.

A $30 TV an­tenna gets you lo­cal chan­nels — CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS, Univi­sion — for free, though you have to watch what­ever’s on at the mo­ment un­less you have a DVR. If you want to see the edgy shows ev­ery­one talks about, then Net­flix is, for most, $10 a month; Ama­zon is $8.25 a month if you sign up for a year. Hulu starts at $8. HBO Now, $15.

Tick­led by ads for a spe­cific net­work show? “The Sin­ner,” an eerie look­ing new Jes­sica Biel ve­hi­cle on USA, costs $20 on Ama­zon for the sea­son. All that to­gether is al­ready more than $60 a month. It’s even worse if you’re a sports fan. MLB. TV is $113 for the year, and you won’t get home­team games.

Berkowitz says he’s cu­ri­ous about the Disney ser­vice, es­pe­cially since he ex­pects to save money by cutting ca­ble. “For us, if it’s $5 a month it’ll al­most be like that im­pulse buy, go to a store and pick up a candy bar,” he says.

Disney hasn’t set­tled on prices yet, say­ing only it wants an af­ford­able ser­vice that’s broadly ap­peal­ing. Its Disney Life stream­ing video app in the U.K. launched at 10 pounds a month in Novem­ber 2015 and now costs half that — about $6.50.

Of course, Disney might still bun­dle Marvel movies and the Star Wars fran­chise into its ser­vice, which would help it ap­peal to a wider de­mo­graphic. For kid’s pro­gram­ming, there’s al­ready a lot out there. Much of it is free.

Darcy Hansen, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant and stay-at-home mom in the Dal­las sub­urbs, has two kids un­der age 5 whose fa­vorite show — “Sher­iff Cal­lie’s Wild West” — is a Disney se­ries on Hulu. But a Disney app isn’t a must-have for her.

Her kids al­ready watch “all sorts of things” on YouTube and on the free PBS Kids app, and they have Net­flix too, Hansen says. “I don’t think Disney has a mo­nop­oly on chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming, in our house at least.”

[AP PHOTO]

The fu­ture of TV may well be a mish­mash of stream­ing ser­vices that could wind up cost­ing pretty close to a $100 ca­ble bun­dle, but that are way too dif­fi­cult to use.

[AP FILE PHOTO]

Xiaomi’s Mi Box, left, the Roku Pre­miere, cen­ter, and the Ama­zon Fire TV stream­ing TV de­vices are shown.

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