Stream­ing TV is about to get com­pli­cated

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - News - BY MAE AN­DER­SON

Stream­ing TV may never again be as sim­ple, or as af­ford­able, as it is now.

Dis­ney and Warn­erMe­dia are each launch­ing their own stream­ing ser­vices in 2019 in a chal­lenge to Net­flix’s dom­i­nance. Net­flix view­ers will no longer be able to watch hit movies such as “Black Pan­ther” or “Moana,” which will soon re­side on Dis­ney’s sub­scrip­tion ser­vice. Warn­erMe­dia, a unit of AT&T, will also soon have its own ser­vice to show­case its li­brary of block­buster films and

HBO se­ries.

Fam­i­lies will have to de­cide be­tween pay­ing more each month or los­ing ac­cess to some of their fa­vorite dra­mas, come­dies, musicals and ac­tion flicks.

“There’s def­i­nitely a lot of change com­ing,” said Paul Verna at eMar­keter, a dig­i­tal re­search com­pany. “Peo­ple will have more choices of what to stream, but at the same time the mar­ket is al­ready frag­mented and in­tim­i­dat­ing and it is only go­ing to get more so.”

Me­dia companies are seek­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the pop­u­lar­ity and profitabil­ity of stream­ing. But by frag­ment­ing the mar­ket, they’re also nar­row­ing the once wide se­lec­tion that fu­eled the rise of in­ter­net-based video. About 55 per­cent of U.S. house­holds now sub­scribe to paid stream­ing video ser­vices, up from just 10 per­cent in 2009, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Deloitte.

Just as Net­flix, Hulu and Ama­zon Prime tempted peo­ple to “cut the cord” by can­cel­ing tra­di­tional cable TV pack­ages, the newer ser­vices are look­ing to dis­mem­ber those mor­ein­clu­sive op­tions.

Dis­ney Plus is set to launch its new ser­vice late this year with new Marvel and Star Wars pro­gram­ming, along with its li­brary of an­i­mated and live-ac­tion movies and shows. It hasn’t an­nounced pric­ing yet, but Dis­ney CEO Bob Iger said in an Au­gust call with an­a­lysts that it will likely be less than Net­flix, which runs $8 to $14 a month, since its li­brary will be smaller.

AT&T plans a three-tier of­fer­ing from Warn­erMe­dia, with a slate of new and li­brary con­tent cen­tered around the ex­ist­ing HBO stream­ing app. No word on pric­ing yet.

In­di­vid­ual chan­nels, such as Fox, ESPN, CBS and Show­time, are also get­ting into the act. Re­search group TDG pre­dicts that ev­ery ma­jor TV net­work will launch a di­rect-to-consumer stream­ing ser­vice in the next five years.

Net­flix and oth­ers have in­vested heav­ily in orig­i­nal movies and TV shows to keep their cus­tomers loyal. Net­flix, for in­stance, said Wed­nes­day that 45 mil­lion sub­scriber ac­counts world­wide watched the San­dra Bul­lock thriller “Bird Box” dur­ing its first seven days on the ser­vice, the big­gest first-week suc­cess of any movie made for the com­pany’s nearly 12-year-old stream­ing ser­vice.

That first-week au­di­ence means nearly a third of Net­flix’s 137 mil­lion sub­scribers watched the movie from Dec. 21 through Dec. 27 – a hol­i­day-sea­son stretch when many peo­ple aren’t work­ing and have more free time.

But Net­flix, Hulu and oth­ers may soon have to do with­out pro­grams and movies li­censed from their soon-to-be ri­vals.

MATT KENNEDY AP

Net­flix view­ers will no longer be able to watch hit movies such as “Black Pan­ther” or “Moana,” which will soon re­side on Dis­ney’s up­com­ing sub­scrip­tion ser­vice.

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