The Streaming Wars: Who Wins?

With an abundance of choice out there, critics of the streaming model have claimed users can reach subscription fatigue, i.e. the idea that consumers will tire over having to subscribe to any number of streaming services. If I were to look at all of my services, I’ve got:

  • Netflix Premium (£13.99/month)

  • Disney+ (Annual; £4.99/month)

  • Hulu (£8.63/month)

  • HBO Max (£14.99/month)

  • NOWTV Entertainment, Cinema and Boost (£25.97/month)

  • Amazon Prime (Annual; £6.58/month)

  • YouTube Premium (£11.99/month)

  • Apple One Premium (£29.99/month)


That adds up to a whopping £117.13/month in order to get a diverse cross-section of content. The amount I spend on services really isn’t that sustainable, with over £1400 each year just going to entertainment. It’s very clear that, in the long-term, some of these services will have to go the way of the dodo. The question, therefore, is: which one? In this article, I want to go through which services I think have the best chance of living past 2026 with my odds and a justification. Let’s go.


Netflix

Chances of survival: 100%

Justification: Netflix is the ruler of the services. Whilst having a pretty strong library of content and originals, it also experiments with features just because it can. Its interactive episodes are genuinely great and make a really strong use of the format and technology in ways that are novel, rather than novelty.


Disney+

Chances of survival: 90%

Justification: Profitability is hard and, whilst nobody can ever suggest the possibility of Disney of running out of money, we have to remember that Disney+ is not Disney’s first streaming service. In Europe, we had DisneyLife, which had a wealth of content but was basically unusable. It could be that Disney’s current approach of reacting sensitively to dynamic changes in the market could serve it well; after all, we’re getting the adult-oriented section of Disney+, something Bob Iger was vehemently against, as a direct response to consumer demands for Hulu. That said, if Disney doesn’t figure out its releases and get rights under control, it could spell trouble for a pretty loyal consumer-base.


HBO Max

Chances of survival: 85%

Justification: Whilst this isn’t the first HBO streaming service, it is by far the most fully formed. Reaching through an archive of standout shows and movies, AT&T’s streamer has also been agile and intentional with the types of content it puts on the service. The only potential nail in the coffin is that there isn’t too much of a push to go outside of the Americas; that said, with the Latin America launch in June, it’s very possible that they’re looking at ways of expanding wider. At the end of the day, AT&T, what costs more: the money you’re losing by not launching everywhere, or the cost of buying out of those long-term output deals?


Amazon Prime Video

Chances of survival: 80%

Justification: Streaming seems merely incidental to Amazon. While other studios have bought up smaller ones, Amazon is focused on licensing and output deals. The inevitability of that is: what if those smaller studios build up enough capital to make their own service? That said, I think Amazon is one of the companies that can eat the losses because nobody really gets Amazon Prime for the movies and shows.


The other one of those companies?


Apple

Chances of survival: 80%

Justification: Apple can afford to lose money for years on its service; in fact, it’s losing money for at least 1.5 years because, since launch, the service has been free for anybody who bought a new iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV from September 2019. The content library is something fairly unique to AppleTV+ because everything is either an original or a co-prod, meaning there really aren’t any discrepancies across markets. Whilst the content library is small at the moment, they seemed to have upped their commission game so let’s see what the future holds.


Hulu

Chances of survival: 40%

Justification: I think Hulu as it stands will cease to exist. It’s clear from the launch of Star on Disney+ that Disney isn’t opposed to adding mature content to its flagship service and, while Star was made in the absence of Hulu, the reality is that consumers would prefer not to have to pay for more than necessary. Hulu currently is at least partially owned by Comcast, who will be bought out either through a takeover or straight share sale by 2024. At that point, Disney can take the Hulu brand and do what it wants with it; my guess is, they’ll take Hulu’s streaming library and stick it as the sixth branded tile on Disney+ in the US, whilst keeping the Hulu Live TV option as a separate, cable-free cable app.


Peacock

Chances of survival: 40%

Justification: Peacock’s business model is downright confusing and is fairly, I’d argue, anti-consumer. Having three tiers isn’t inherently bad, but having three tiers where one of them nerfs content in order to get you to pay for an ad-support version of the library is. I also think Comcast isn’t fully invested in the future of streaming; where other studio-originated services have adapted to COVID by bringing premieres to them, Peacock has remained a pretty confusing mix of services with maybe one hit library show. And, when it loses the Harry Potter movies in 2025, it’s all downhill from there.


What Service Comes Out on Top?

I don’t think there’s a world where Netflix and Disney+ don’t stay leagues above everyone else. It could very well be that, through some careful acquisitions, the other services become part of one another. Imagine that Netflix buys up Sony Pictures in order to boost its library content, or Apple purchases MGM to help pad out the service? But, at the end of the day, Netflix and Disney+ are the only two services I feel confident will be the ones standing beyond the next 5 years.


Which service do you think will come out on top? Let me know in the comments or by following me (@StreamingBuffer) and Josh (@JoshM_Jones) on Twitter!


Until then, happy streaming!


Clue 6: You only have me as a perk of free shipping.


Bonus Clue: Don’t cross me, word?



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