I’ve been thinking about streaming services a lot more than usual as my itch for more content during quarantine is getting more intense. I just subscribed to Disney+ making it them the first additional video streaming service I’ve subscribed to since I got Netflix, not counting Hulu which I got packaged with Spotify Premium. As of right now there’s hundreds of options for streaming starting from your more well known names like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime going all the way to ones you’ve probably never heard of like Xumo or KlowdTV that are not only offering movies and tv show streaming but also live tv. I’m sure everyone’s seen the “Hulu has live tv” ads if you haven’t been under a rock the past couple years and they’re not the only ones, YouTube TV offers 70+ channels including local channels as well as many premium channels. At first I was excited at all these new innovations and options for where and what I could stream, but then I got this feeling of déjà vu like I’ve seen this all before.
Feel free to point out flaws in my argument but doesn’t it seem as though streaming services are just turning into a rebranded version of cable? Before when I subscribed to Xfinity, I was given 1,000 channels, 20 of which I actually used, along with an on demand service that let me stream content from the channels Included in my package. What about that is any different from subscribing to Netflix, Hulu + Live TV and HBO Max besides being able to stream from anywhere? Even if you get an average cable package through Xfinity, it’s probably cheaper than getting premium versions of Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max as well. For just the Xfinity TV package alone it’s around $70.99/month. Hulu + Live TV costs $60/month, Netflix Costs $13/month, and HBO Max costs $15/month. That all together costs around $88/month. Obviously there’s a clear benefit from going with streaming services (no contract, digital streaming anywhere, no costly hardware etc.), but if you’re looking at it from a cost to content ratio, cable is still neck and neck.
You could say “you don’t have to pay for all 3 services” and that’s true, you could just pay for Netflix at $13/month and you might be able to get all you want out of it. Essentially though the temptation to pay for other services is the same temptations that cable services use to get people to upgrade their package. You could pay for just Netflix but that means you’re limited to whatever Netflix pays to have on their platform, so if Hulu has another variety of shows that appeal to you then stuck either buying another service or living with what you have. Basic cable worked the same way by offering all the typical channels you needed and but some people want a sports package or movie channels added on to give them more options. Yeah Netflix might have a lot of the stuff you want but if you want a good movie package or access to premium shows you might buy HBO Max or if you want access to live sports you’d buy Hulu + Live TV.
What I see for the future is something pretty close to what we already had in the past just improved. I see companies like Verizon and Comcast striking deals with streaming services to bundle their services into one package that includes streaming, phone, and internet similar to the TV, phone and internet packages they have right now. Cable companies know you need internet to run a streaming service anyway and these streaming companies don’t have the resources to offer you an internet package themself, so I see it as very likely that in the future you’ll see an “all in one” streaming bundle that includes phone and internet that offer upgrades to include additional content. Already Xfinity is offering Netflix included with their X1 packages in some areas. Also with cable networks realizing that creating their own streaming platform can generate more money than leasing their content to big name platforms, the market is becoming more and more fractured making it more and more necessary to buy multiple services making this bundling all the more convenient for users. Next thing you know we’re back to the original idea of cable with each service acting as its own new and improved “channel”.