Not too long ago, Netflix, Hulu, and Sling TV looked like they were turning the entertainment industry on its head. Millennials and Gen-Xers were increasingly ditching their cable subscriptions for low-cost streaming alternatives. Well, those low-cost alternatives are now so bifurcated that many viewers’ television habits have them coughing up a chunk of change not too dissimilar from *gasps and clutches whatever is the millennial equivalent of pearls* their cable bill!
With the recent launch of both Disney+ and Apple TV+ (because we’d all be nonplus if it weren’t “plus“), the sum of streaming options has become both more confusing and increasingly mediocre. While it’s great that Disney’s content is once again available to stream – after being pulled from Netflix a year ago – and that Apple is throwing gobs of money at premiere directors, producers, and showrunners, it’s become more difficult to find a service that offers a deep library of quality entertainment.
It wasn’t too long ago that Netflix and Hulu both had significant libraries of programming backing up a strong line of original content. Now, as more and more shows and movies are pulled back to their respective motherships, it feels like both Netflix and Hulu are missing a significant piece of the entertainment pie.
For studios, playing ball with digital streaming services was initially a way to prevent piracy and make a pretty penny by selling or renting their intellectual property. But as these platforms siphoned off cable viewers, Netflix raked in the cash. What are the studios and networks supposed to do – be content that they’ve put a dent in piracy and made more money from content that’s just sitting in their vault? No, of course not! Why? Because shareholders (which might as well be Michael Bloomberg’s 2020 campaign slogan).
As things stand today, it seems inevitable that piracy makes a comeback. This certainly won’t be a Napster circa 2001 type of comeback, but something that will cause studios to fret about lost revenue – again.
Let’s consider a hypothetical television viewer. We’ll call him Rob. Rob is a big fan of Ken Burns, The West Wing, and House of Cards. He’s also always down for a good documentary. Netflix will scratch those itches. Rob is also a bit of a sports nut. However, his inability to hit a wide open jumper or throw a 100-mph fastball meant he never collected that pro athlete paycheck to shell out for MLB.TV or NBA League Pass, so he’ll settle for ESPN+.
Now that he’s committed to ESPN+, Rob might as well spend a few dollars more to get Disney’s fancy new bundle that includes Hulu and Disney+ so he and his wife can keep up with Jake Peralta’s latest shenanigans on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and their nephew can get his Pixar fix when he comes over. Oh, I almost forgot to mention Rob’s Amazon Prime subscription which offers The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and whatever Jim from The Office is up to these days.
This two-person household, that hasn’t had time to binge-watch a series since season one of Orange Is the New Black, has now committed to five different streaming platforms just to watch some of what they want to watch.
Those early streaming platforms certainly succeeded in shaking up the entertainment industry. That shakeup just might not end the way that cord-cutters were hoping.