It is no secret that the competition in streaming channels has increased at a rapid pace, even faster than those who saw it coming could have predicted. We live in a new world of unlimited options for movies and television at the push of a button, and there’s still more to come as it seems every cable network and media conglomerate are seeking out a piece of the streaming pie. But with too many options comes a heavy price and that is an oversaturated market. When consumers are given too many options, it is likely that they won’t decided on anything, or they become far more picky and loyalty is no longer a sales hook. Streaming is not only changing the way we consume media and the entertainment industry as a whole, but it may very well be growing faster than it can sustain and is heading toward a bubble burst.
So how do we navigate what is worth the price, what to keep and what to dump, and what to add to the ever growing cost of home media convenience? It is here where it will probably come down to a matter of opinion as each service seems to provide something for a target audience and has built their entire platform around it. Because of the subjectivity of media, I must clarify that these are simply my own personal opinions of how each service stacks against each other. I have at least 7 of the major streaming players, so my critiques of each one will be based on my personal experiences with them. So here we will dive into a few of the big guns in the streaming industry, analyzing the content and staying power of each one and deciding wether or not they have a dog in the fight still.
Let’s start off light and work our way down the list: Amazon Prime. With over 75 million subscribers worldwide and set to hit over 100 million by the end of 2020, it seems be a competitor in the streaming wars but not a leader. Despite their growing numbers, a lot of that can be contributed to the other benefits of Prime as the streaming comes standard for users of other Amazon perks. Streaming wise, Amazon Prime is not without strong original content. With shows like The Boys, The Marvelous Ms. Maisel, and The Man in The High Castle they are no stranger to award winning original content. Mixed with their ever growing film catalog and you have a pretty solid lineup and a pretty solid bang for your buck. The struggle for Amazon is that while they have all the money in the world to produce high quality content, there is a limit to how much they’re willing to output and the more expensive the show, the more it is reliant on it to break records and keep the base. Prime should probably be more competitive than it is, and while it doesn’t commit the folly that some of the smaller ones have, it rides the line just close enough to not be nearly as relevant as it could be.
Since we’re talking about relevance and streaming folly, let’s lump some of the newcomers to the game hoping to take over and why they aren’t. This includes services like AppleTV Plus, CBS All Access, and DC Universe to name a few. The biggest mistake made here is putting all of their eggs into one basket. These services seem to throw their money at production for content, but it’s all they have so when the show doesn’t dominate even on a domestic scale, they’re left with nothing. That’s not to say the shows aren’t good (I’ve Harley Quinn is particularly delightful) but rather that having one solid, expensive, star studded show as a flagship isn’t enough for a long standing and high subscriber streaming platform. As stated before, a consumer with too many options becomes overwhelmed and ends up not committing to anything but we are so far past the point no return that in order to be sustainable, the content has to be vast right out of the gate. Even Apple TV Plus with close to 33 million subscribers doesn’t have the viewership as most customers (much like amazon) aren’t actually paying for the subscription. Likewise with CBS All Access, they have one major show meant to drum up nostalgia for Star Trek fans. And while I’m sure Picard is fantastic, but is it worth $5.99/month in addition the average $20/month for the other services you have? No. For one show, even 3 shows it’s just not worth it.
And now we come to the big dogs starting with Disney+. They are without question one of the largest and fastest growing services in the streaming war, Within a time period of 6 month they already amassing 50 million subscribers. But where other streaming services struggle to maintain a vast catalog of content, Disney+ seems to have the opposite struggle. They have all the content your little Disney heart can desire, but its roots are in pure nostalgia which has worn off for many recently. There was absolutely an excitement among fans when Disney made the decision to come on to the streaming scene, but after a few episodes here, a few childhood rewatches there, it all just kind of fell stale. When I signed up for Disney+ I couldn’t wait to watch some of my favorite childhood shows like Darkwing Duck, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, and X-Men. But after a few episodes I got my fix and found myself thinking ok, what next? There seems to be a lot of “Oh hey! I remember that movie!” but without the desire to fire it up often. Don’t get me wrong, things like the Mandalorian and a final season of The Clone Wars are definitely worth watching, and the hope of the coming Marvel shows are enough to keep me from cancelling. But again, it shows that while Disney+ has the content, it lacks worthy original content to keep us coming back for more.
And that brings us to Netflix, the originator and clear captain of the streaming ship. with over 182 million subscribers worldwide, despite the chatter of financial struggles it continues to be the leader and the clear winner in the streaming world. I’ll admit, I believed that Disney+ would be the one to challenge the Netflix powerhouse, but we see time and time again that Netflix has no intention of being dethroned any time soon. The key to Netflix success isn’t just its longevity of being in the game far longer than its competitors, but Netflix is never shy of original content. They seem through as much as the wall as possible and see what sticks. And nothing is in any particular genre as they don’t tailor their content towards targeted audiences. You want more stand up? Here’s 8 new stand up specials this week. You like true crime? Here’s a few startling original series that will get your fix (watch Don’t F*** With Cats for an great example of this). You want lions, and tigers and meth oh my? No problem, Netflix has you covered. There is something for everyone and there is always something new and original to watch. Of course this approach leaves you with a lot of bad shows and movies too, but it’s a risk Netflix has been willing to take and it seems to pay off more than it fails. Tiger King is a great example of a show that is so out there it’s hard to believe it’s real, but it instantly became a cultural phenomenon. So while there is plenty to avoid and forget you watched, Netflix’ ability to continue to be relevant and produce non stop original content in addition to their film library is what keeps them ahead of the pack.
I’m sure that as we continue in the fight for your home television, many other streaming services will start to find their groove and get the hang of what consumers really want and are willing to pay for. None of the big dogs need to start waving the white flag just yet, but everyone needs to keep a look out on the horizon because Netflix is still on the attack and winning, storming into our homes riding tigers.