As streaming services kill off traditional cable subscriptions, David Chartier examines whether this shift is for the best
David Chartier on the streaming revolution.
Traditional cable subs have steadily declined for a decade, while the sheer quantity, variety, and quality of internet streaming services has flourished. You could argue that consumers won — having escaped the shackling of cable bundles while gaining more choice and flexibility. In the coming years, though, we may have to reflect on an old adage: be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
These days, we have no shortage of options for streaming just about anything we want. Newer companies like Netflix quickly gained dominance, while the old guard like HBO, Sony, and the broadcast channels can apparently learn new tricks. Apple and Amazon are now also streaming providers and even create new, original series.
We’re in a golden age of movie and TV show accessibility. Many services offer a wealth of content at affordable prices.
However, I call this a golden age because we are slowly entering what comes next. While I don’t think it’s an asteroid or mass media extinction, these services are definitely evolving, and I don’t think everyone will be happy.
The first sign of the Walled Garden Age is the race for exclusives. This tactic is as old as the biz itself, but competition has hockey-sticked among streaming services in recent years. Apple and Amazon are directly hiring big Hollywood names, and Netflix alone will spend $8 billion in 2018 to produce (and acquire) over 700 original films and TV shows. Yeah, seven hundred. You’d better free up some more binging weekends.
The next sign is what I would call “old exclusives.” Some of the larger studios have started pulling content from third parties like Netflix and Amazon. It happens with such frequency now that some websites have started regular coverage of “here’s what to watch on Netflix before it disappears this month.” Part of it is just licenses expiring, but Disney plans to pull all of its films from Netflix in 2019, then launch its own service.
All of this leads up to the third sign: The New Bundling. Some people are happy with Netflix (and maybe Spotify). But a large portion of the market will soon trade their singular cable subscription for juggling individual bills across Hulu, Sony, Disney, Netflix, and maybe even ESPN and a couple other channels for good measure.
In many ways, it’s a win for consumer choice and flexibility; I don’t know anyone who wants to go back to waiting for a film or TV episode to broadcast at a specific time on a specific channel. And yet, The Walled Garden Age might feel like a loss in other ways. But like the evolutionary ages before it, there is likely no going back.