Streaming Wars: the blunders and the prospects
The entertainment industry is turning into a battleground between the “veterans” and ambitious newcomers with a large supply of resources. HBO Go, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Netflix have not finished carving up the market, when Disney +, AT&T Warner Media and Apple TV Plus came knocking. And smaller specialized services like Shudder, CrunchyRoll and Criterion are orbiting the fight and ready to pick up the pieces after the clash of giants.
The services are duking it out over a very lucrative piece/ The streaming market is among the fastest-growing things in entertainment. In 2019 the market is valued at $60 billion dollars, and the projected value for 2024 is 125 $billion dollars. At the moment US is responsible for a better part of the profits, but Asia’s share is steadily growing.
As it always is with tech, companies are not interested in money alone. Streaming is a treasure trove of user’s data. By monitoring the platforms, companies can get an insight into a usually well hidden type of personal details: cultural preferences. In turn, they can use this info to make theirs shows and films more appealing to a wider audience - Netflix is already using this strategy.
So naturally the companies that want to keep - or conquer - parts of the growing market are putting forward a lot of their resources. The “old guard” is expanding its range of publically available IPs and thhe “newcomers” are employing renowned directors and actors for their originals.
Despite being a high-value, almost strategically important projects, new streaming services got their share of problems at launch - most of them still unresolved. What’s interesting is that they mostly managed to sabotage themselves, without any external pressure or corporate espionage.
Disney + had one of the most successful launches of the last years. On its first day the service got over 10 million users. And then it promptly crashed. Disney stated, that there was an issue with a software, which was not ready for such a success. An almost nice-sounding problem, but the crashes are still there and are still making the users upset. Some older shows - notably “The SImpsons” - experienced some heavy-handed compression issues.
Apple had to cancel its frontrunner film “The Banker”. The feature film, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie was supposed to be the first large-scale production to hit the service. Obviously, the company put a lot at stake with this premier. But Apple still had to postpone the release after the children of one of the real-life prototypes for the film’s character – Bernard Garett – raised concerns about their father’s portrayal on screen. Apple is already addressing the issue, but the premiere is postponed indefinitely.
That is not to say, that veterans do not encounter their own technical issues. Hulu’s users recently experienced a series of long network-wide outages. The service did not offer any convincing explanation for the problems and did not comment on whether the issue may happen again.
Netflix, it seems, has its tech under control. Instead the most well-known streaming service - at least in the Western hemisphere - is facing a financial crisis. This September Netflix’s debt amounted to $12.4 billion. Whether investors will tolerate the situation for long remains to be seen.
AT&T’s Warner Media streaming service is currently looking like an underdog. It is coming to the party late – the launch is scheduled on March 2020. The subscription fee of 16-17 dollars per month is also higher than those of the competitors – the HBO’s is $14.99, Netflix’s is $12.99, Hulu’s is $11.99 and Amazon Prime Video’s is $10. However, there are still some possible advantages for AT&T’s project. They still have some major IPs and might address their pool of talents to produce enticing products.
There are also other possible competitors for global market. The most worthy of note are, probably, YouTube Red and NBC Universal. The formerhas a diverse pool of content-creators at the ready, but did not yet find its audience. The latter has its significan TV-based resources, but lacks convincing USPs and is goint to enter the market even later than AT&T.
Besides the more or less global battleground of American services, there are also smaller theatres of streaming wars. There regional markets are also being carved up in other countries - the competition is quite fierce in Russia, for example. And of course there are “pretenders” from China. The biggest one is, of course, Tencent. Their recent lawsuit over rights to stream the latest album of a popular singer Jay Chou proves that the company is holding on tight to its dominant position in digital media and is ready to fight off competitors.
The number of cord-cutters is growing all over the world. Most of them are switching to streaming. If - or maybe “when” - TV is no longer the biggest media at home, streaming services will be not only extremely profitable, but also influential sector of entertainment. So it appears, that the emergence of new state-owned services is a question of time.