What was your first reaction when you heard Disney was ending its deal with Netflix to launch a streaming service of its own? Was it … exhaustion? Well tuck in, because yet another major player — that would be Apple — is elbowing its way into the streaming game in the coming months.
More choice is usually a good thing. So why does it all feel so weirdly burdensome? Oh right, the cost. Monthly subscriptions tend to range between $8 and $12, but it adds up. Juggling multiple services can be a headache. It feels complicated even if it really isn’t. Are you keeping track of everything? You know, on top of everything else you have going on? Are you annoyed that you have to buy in just to see one show? All you want is that one show!
Do you long for the simplicity of (gasp) a cable bundle?
Apple isn’t playing around. It nabbed a couple of former Sony Pictures Television execs who are looking to build their own slate of original programming. Tweeting this week, Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter likened Apple’s entry into the TV market to a “giant waking up. And when it starts to play catch up, the industry is going to rattle.”
That means more shows. Which means more shows for you to miss.
What’s stopping Google from pushing harder with its YouTube Red subscription service — or is it merely another giant soon to awaken?
I’m wondering just how many streaming services people actually want. Executives are wondering the same; I’m not sure the fear of missing out is as intense as they would like you to think. (R.I.P. Seeso, NBC’s streaming comedy platform, which is shutting down at the end of the year.)
Scrolling through social media after the Disney announcement made clear that most people have reached a limit: No one wants to subscribe to more than two or three services, max. And that includes over-the-top subscriptions to Showtime or HBO or CBS All Access. Who even has time to watch more than a few shows a week? Oh, by the way: DC Entertainment is launching its own streaming service next year with original programming, including a live-action series adaptation of the DC comic “Titans.”
Are you numb yet?
“By tradition, TV is a passive medium,” writes Noel Murray in The Week. “Viewers plop down on the couch, push a button, and see what’s on. They don’t want to have to manage a spreadsheet to keep track of everything they’re paying for.” Murray’s advocating for streaming bundles that have the functionality of a DVR. It sounds like a far better system than what we have now.
In 2017 alone we’ll see somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 TV series pushed out into the ether. Some of those shows star well-known actors but you never hear about them because for all their willingness to invest in talent, streaming services have yet to really ace the marketing side. Maybe you’re unaware some of these services even exist. Could the average person tell you what Shudder is — or that the horror niche service is developing original shows too, including a series from “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins?
Netflix was the first to dominate and it remains the default — geared to be all things to all people — so much so that “Netflix and chill” has become a defining marker of the current TV moment. Note the recent deals with everyone from Shonda Rhimes to the Coen brothers to David Letterman. The anonymous musings of The Bitter Script Reader (both on Twitter and in blog form) can be fascinating dispatches from someone who works inside Hollywood, but on the streaming question, he’s looking at it from the consumer point of view:
“The days of Netflix being a good one-stop shop for a deep library of content are numbered. As each of these networks and more launch their own services, they’ll likely be taking back their content from other sites. It’s the only way to add value to their product. Are you prepared to pay all of this and more a month?”
No. No I am not.
You could just subscribe and cancel, over and over, depending on what you want to watch. Anecdotally, that’s not uncommon. It doesn’t seem like a great business model, though. Will services increasingly make it harder to dip in and out? Will they start locking you into multiyear plans?
How about a streaming service “designed first and foremost to meet consumer needs instead of studio needs,” writes Tasha Robinson, the film and TV editor at The Verge. “For me that would mean opting into, and paying for, only the specific shows I want to watch, instead of getting inundated with thousands of titles I don’t want or need.” Her preference? “Give me the streaming service that’s the equivalent of Netflix’s one-DVD-at-a-time subscription: the streaming service that acknowledges how I actually consume shows, one at a time.”
“The marketplace cannot support a dozen different services,” Dom Caristi, a professor in Ball State University’s department of telecommunications told me, and that was two years ago. And here we are, with options only expanding. Well, expanding and contracting, because as Disney and Apple jump into the fray and outspend one another — Apple has set a budget of roughly $1 billion to spend on new shows — services with less money to burn will likely go the way of Seeso.