Risk of stream­ing fa­tigue as big com­pa­nies join

Yuma Sun - - DESSERT LIFE -

NEW YORK — As Wal­mart, AT&T and Dis­ney join stal­warts such as Net­flix in stream­ing video and cre­at­ing orig­i­nal shows, a re­al­ity sets in: Not all will sur­vive.

Over the past week, Wal­mart an­nounced plans to part­ner with MGM Stu­dios on orig­i­nal shows for Wal­mart’s video-on-de­mand ser­vice, Vudu, while AT&T’s Warn­er­Me­dia said it would cre­ate its own stream­ing ser­vice cen­tered on HBO and Turner prop­er­ties.

Dis­ney, mean­while, is buy­ing Fox’s en­ter­tain­ment busi­nesses to beef up its planned stream­ing ser­vice, set to de­but next year.

Add to that some ex­ist­ing, but lit­tle-known ser­vices, such as Film­struck, Sun­dance Now, Mubi and oth­ers that of­fer older movies or niche of­fer­ings to sub­scribers.

These com­pa­nies are try­ing to keep up with the chang­ing tastes of con­sumers as they stream video on de­mand rather than rely on tra­di­tional ca­ble sub­scrip­tions.

But con­sumers have lim­ited funds to spend; stream­ing be­he­moths like Net­flix and Ama­zon got an early start and a lion’s share of sub­scribers so far.

“Too many ser­vices (are) go­ing af­ter the same con­sumer and piece of the pie,” Wed­bush an­a­lyst Dan Ives said. “Stream­ing rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant mar­ket op­por­tu­nity for the com­ing years but ul­ti­mately (stream­ing video) will have a few clear win­ners and a grave­yard of those ven­dors that will fail.”

In a way, the over­abun­dance of stream­ing ser­vices echoes the pro­lif­er­a­tion of too many ca­ble chan­nels in the tra­di­tional ca­ble model and the old com­plaint of “so many chan­nels and noth­ing is on.”

Back then, ca­ble com­pa­nies forced you to get those chan­nels and raised monthly fees reg­u­larly. Now the power is shift­ing to the con­sumer: if they don’t want to watch some­thing, they don’t buy it.

The stream­ing mar­ket is grow­ing, al­though at a slow­ing pace. EMar­keter ex­pects the num­ber of peo­ple who use one or more video ser­vices in the U.S. to grow about 4 per­cent to 206 mil­lion by 2020. Google’s YouTube and Net­flix are the clear win­ners so far.

YouTube has an es­ti­mated 191 mil­lion users and Net­flix about 133 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to eMar­keter. Ama­zon has been nip­ping at its heels, with an es­ti­mated 90 mil­lion.

Newer up­starts will face a tough bat­tle to com­pete.

Each com­pany is hop­ing its own ex­clu­sive con­tent will pique view­ers’ in­ter­est. Wal­mart and MGM will de­but an up­date on “Mr. Mom.” Warn­er­Me­dia has HBO’s ar­se­nal of hit shows like “Game of Thrones.” Dis­ney has an end­less stream of pop­u­lar movies such as “Frozen” and the “Star Wars” and Marvel fran­chises. It’s also plan­ning orig­i­nal shows based on those fran­chises.

Com­pa­nies risk ex­tinc­tion if they can­not cre­ate their own ver­sions of “Must See TV” shows of the past, said Seth Shapiro, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s School of Cin­e­matic Arts.

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