We live now at the peak of the streaming wars. Every company wants to become the next Netflix. In the next few months, AppleTV+, Disney+, HBO Max and Peacock will be launching, hoping to usher a new age of streaming entertainment to the masses. However, with all this new content, one needs to ask, "Who is going to watch all of this?"
Every company wants a slice of the Netflix pie, true. Every company sees the potential, especially with people cutting cords to avoid the high costs of cable. Netflix offers a great deal of content, is a trusted brand, and is not too expensive to boot. What chance do any of these other companies have to stand up to them, and will audiences want to spend money on some unproven company?
The Reason People Turn to Streaming
There are two reasons people turn to streaming services like Netflix over cable: convenience and affordability. There is an incredible convenience to accessing media whenever you feel like it, particularly if you're offering good content you can't find for cheap elsewhere. On the other hand, there is a notable cost. Cable costs a ton of money, with people often paying for content they neither watch nor want to watch.
Therefore, Netflix offered a convenient alternative: media you can watch. You pay a small fee every month, watch what you want, while the rest is there if you ever want to get around to seeing it. Soon, other streaming services jumped into the fray, with many offering similar content.
But with so many new streaming services, is the landscape of streaming just turning into a second cable, where, in order to see all the content you want to see, you need to buy twenty different packages? It just seems like families can't wait to pay high prices for all this content.
The Approach is Key
The most successful streaming services have occupied small, particular niches. Shudder, Funimation, and Crunchyroll are not trying to be Amazon Prime or Hulu. They cater to a specific audience but offer a lot for that audience. However, streaming services like DC Universe have failed due to them failing to draw in a large enough crowd to sustain them.
In many respects, this is why Disney+ immediately jumps out as the best option of all these new streaming services. On top of Disney offering a package deal of Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, Disney+ offers family entertainment. It has brand recognition even bigger than that of Netflix. People trust and understand Disney as a company, and, therefore, are more willing to subscribe to what they put out. Furthermore, with the service's release of new Marvel and Star Wars content, people will be more inclined to subscribe to it.
The Confused Landscape
However, while HBO Max and AppleTV+ both have the legacies of their respective companies behind them, neither are as loved as Disney. The strategies and approach of each company is one thing, but neither has the clout in the entertainment business to compare. HBO especially, now with Game of Thrones over, lacks that draw for audiences. Of course, HBO Max won't just be an HBO streaming service. Arguably the biggest draw for many fans will be that Max will provide exclusive access to the entire catalog of Studio Ghibli -- who, up until this point, refused to license its films to anyone.
AppleTV+, on the other hand, is part of the bigger brand of Apple, which remains one of the most successful companies around. It aims to be a source of original content, drawing more from Amazon Prime's style. They will offer a great deal of content on launch, as well as films that, much like Amazon Studios, will be in theaters to make them eligible for cinematic awards. The prestige of Apple might be enough to draw in an audience of die-hards who salivate over every new iPhone, which proves they might have a chance at success.
Peacock is going to be NBC's streaming service, but no one even knows that because Peacock incorporates none of NBC's name into its title. While it will end up being the exclusive home to popular series such as The Office and Parks and Recreation, it is very possible that audiences will not be impressed -- or might even be angry with NBC for removing content from streaming services they already have.
While companies see money, audiences are tired. Streaming services promised a reprieve from the traditional cable services. Everything you wanted could be available on one platform that you'd subscribe to. However, with the content being distributed across multiple platforms, it will immediately become impossible for someone to enjoy all of that content.
Furthermore, content is consistently being made more and more frequently than ever. It seems impossible to keep up with every series streaming out there, each one coming out right after the next. At times, it seems as though this is a game of quantity rather than quality. It is impossible to look at the list of original series across all these platforms and be equally excited for all of them. Netflix itself has hyped up multiple original movies and series that, ultimately, disappointed.
Consider CBS All Access, which had the fortune of releasing the newest Star Trek and Twilight Zone series. Despite launching with some big names behind it, it has still struggled to find its audience. It is only thanks to the established properties it streams that it has managed to stay afloat at all.
For this reason of brand recognition, Disney+ might be the only service that stands a chance. Otherwise, the streaming wars might result in a lot of companies closing shop under the weight of the high start-up costs of each service, coupled with seemingly no one wanting to subscribe at all. As with Game of Thrones, a lot of people only watched HBO for that one show. Once that's done, however, so are the subscribers.