Disney parting ways with Netflix may have ramifications for both companies, but as questions turn to who will fare better post-split, the answer is neither.
The group of companies poised to make the most profit off of stand-alone streaming services’ divide and conquer mentality are the tech giants. Given that more stand-alone streaming services means more annoyance and cost for subscribers, companies like YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and even Snapchat have much to gain from Netflix and Disney’s loss. Amazon, for example, can offer multiple subscriptions to people that can be accessed through one account.
Shay David, an expert on the streaming industry and co-founder of video distribution platform Kaltura, told Polygon that most companies don’t have the infrastructure or software to launch successful, stand-alone services. Those like Disney, Netflix and HBO have enough security about a return on investment to spend large chunks of cash om developing these aspects of their brands. Others will have to find aggregation video services to use.That’s where YouTube, Amazon and Facebook come in. Where these companies lack a quantity of original, professional content, they make up for with software development and infrastructure.
“The power play is mostly going to be around how people are going to discover content,” David said. “The stronger your brand is, the more of an offering you have. Showtime chose to launch within the Amazon service, for example. What you can expect to see is the very strong brands, Disney and HBO, are going to be able to rely on their own apps and the rest will have to go through aggregator apps and be consolidated in.”
Amazon and YouTube look more appealing to people because of their simplicity. The more options people have for streaming, the more subscriptions they have to manage. What started as two or three subscription services escalated to seven or eight. Not only does that get more expensive, but it gets frustrating for viewers. More apps to download on your Apple TV. More URLs to bookmark. More passwords to manage.
Companies like Amazon and YouTube are aware of this. It’s why they’ve collected other streaming services and made them apart of skinny bundles or offered a one-stop app to watch numerous shows at once. Amazon, for example, offers subscriptions to HBO, Showtime and Starz that live directly on the website or app. Although three different subscription packages have to be purchased, once you’re logged into Amazon, you have access to everything.
“I think TV today is kind of in a free-for-all situation,” David said. “Being able to build those services and maintain those services for consumers is very expensive — and it's not the holy grail. It might be more economically sensible to partner with aggregators like Amazon to cut cost. Everyone wants to deliver a fantastic TV experience that can be monetized. The question is would their brand support it and would they have the infrastructure to support it? If not, it’s best to bundle with another service or app.”
It’s an interesting time for both the companies and studios involved in shaping the future of streaming, but that’s not to suggest subscribers be ignored. What does this mean for us? Will this get more expensive? How do we deal with the hassle this has become? Is it easier to stop cutting the cord and start plugging it back in?
David doesn’t think so. For all of the headaches that will come out of the next few years of change in the streaming industry, it won’t convince people to return to traditional premium cable packages. Being able to pick different streaming services — or go through general distribution sites like Amazon — still provides people with a freedom they won’t get through cable, according to David. That claustrophobic feeling of being locked in to a specific package isn’t an anxiety most people will be racing back to.
“Consumers may end up paying more than they thought they would,” David said. “But people are never going to go back to that traditional premium package. The big providers aren’t sleeping on it and they'll create bigger options where HBO and Netflix are bundled in with the cable boxes as a third-party offering.
“The benefit to the consumer is that it's a fully consolidated experience; a single bill.”
Streaming should be easy. Netflix is still the best example of what streaming can look like. But as more networks start to build their own services and remove their content — Fox has begun to remove its animated series, for example — subscribers are having to seek out other streaming platforms to get their content. This seems to be the way the industry is heading. David believes these changes will continue over the next few years. Every network and studio is going to try its hand at providing exclusive access to their services. The best option for consumers is to find a platform like Amazon or YouTube that brings them all together and offers one place to watch everything.