Sunday 22 September 2019

Content Is King: Why Streaming Will Snuff Itself Out

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Stan, Foxtel Go – they say you can never have too much of a good thing, but as more and more streaming services enter the market, I can't help but feel that saturation will only lead to suffocation. 

Disney+ is an embarrassment of riches, with Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel
and National Geographic all included.
As internet speeds get faster and audiences get savvier, streaming has quickly become the hottest format for media companies to beam content into your eyeballs. Cheap, easy to access, on-demand, user-friendly – what's not to love?

With more entertainment options on offer than ever, audiences should be licking their lips at the prospect of more streaming services arriving in Australia – but instead, they may find themselves weeping into their wallets.

In the last 12 to 18 months, audiences have been inundated with a series of high-profile announcements and unveilings. In addition to existing platforms like Netflix and Stan, Amazon Prime hit Australian shores in December 2017, offering a smorgasbord of critically-lauded telly (The Marvellous Ms Maisel, The Man in the High Castle, Fleabag).

CBS's ownership of Channel Ten has ushered the arrival of Ten All Access, which carries shows like Jordan Peele's Twilight Zone reboot, while Foxtel, once the go-to destination for unmissable drama and American television, has responded by leaning into streaming too.

Formula One can be streamed via Foxtel Go and Kayo.
Foxtel Go has been afforded some more polish and is by far the dearest option available to Australians, but it has an ace up its sleeve in the form of bundles and bundles of live sport – every round of the AFL, NRL, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Formula One, MotoGP, Rugby World Cup and more. This point of difference has spring-boarded into the launch of Kayo, a service exclusively for sport that launched in November last year.

And now, Disney+ and Apple TV+ are set to crowd the market and confuse viewers even further. In the United States, the number of contenders is greater still – NBC recently unveiled plans for a service called Peacock, CBS has launched CBS All Access, HBO has HBO GO for cable-cutters as well as Hulu, DC Universe and Shudder for fans of horror.

At first, the appeal of streaming came from the low price, lack of scheduling and wealth of choice. Netflix has ruled the roost for as long as it has thanks to affordability and its delicious buffet of original content, new shows from third parties and older favourites. Almost all of these appealing attributes, however, are diluted as more parties come to the, well, party.

For starters, the price. Netflix is no longer as cheap as it once was, and this cost is compounded by the need to fork out for four or five seperate subscriptions – something I'd wager most audiences won't stand for. If you're already paying $10 a month for Netflix and Stan apiece, but you also fancy giving Ten All Access, Disney+ and Apple TV+ a spin ($10, $8.99 and $7.99 a month respectively), something's gotta give.

Say you're at work and overhear someone raving about Fleabag on Amazon Prime. But you also barrack for [insert footy team here], so you lump for Foxtel Go as well. The kids are frothing over Stranger Things, which means Netflix is a must, and re-runs of Will and Grace can only be found on Stan. Forget about watching the Premier League, that would mean subscribing to Optus Sport as well. And we haven't even touched on the likes of YouTube and Facebook looking to get a look in too...

One way or another, one or more of those is going to get the chop. The cost of living keeps going up, and Aussies are feeling the pinch more than ever – so unless you've got money to burn, forking out $60+ a month on streaming doesn't compute. And that's before you factor in the hefty price of Foxtel Go...

Apple has attracted some big names for its subscription streaming service.
With more options comes more indecision and scheduling issues. I don't know about you, but working full-time and having a (decent) social life only leaves so much time for TV.

Netflix more or less has me covered, with a healthy dose of Foxtel on the side for Formula One and other sport. Somewhere in there I find time to eat and sleep. I can't speak for everyone, but I can't see myself quitting my job just so I can catch up on Apple's new show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston (no offence ladies).

Content, as they say, is king – and all these services are paying millions upon millions (or billions upon billions) every year to attract the biggest names in the business, whether it's Netflix bagging the latest Martin Scorsese mafia movie or Amazon pouring money into another Tolkien adaptation.

Are you really going to cancel Netflix
and miss the next season of Stranger Things?
Didn't think so.
There's only so much air in the room, and all these services slurping at what limited air there is will only lead to them suffocating one another. Netflix has, wisely, gotten ahead of the game and established a number of big shows that audiences will come back to, such as Stranger Things. Plus, something new lands pretty much every week.

But I'm not sure if the same can be said of the rest. Amazon Prime has a decent selection, but Stan and Ten's original stuff is pretty weak sauce. Apple TV+ is the wild card in the deck – with new iPhone, iPad and Macbook purchases all coming with a one-year subscription included, the number of potential eyeballs on their stuff is simply staggering.

Australians are about to have more choice than ever, but to compensate, they're going to have to be prepared to pay for it. Rather than picking one and sticking with it, I imagine most audiences will dip in and out – surely robbing these services of the steady flow of subscription income they crave to cover costs. It's about to get ugly out there, and I feel like we're 12 to 18 months away from this streaming war claiming some high-profile casualties. The question is not if, but when – and more importantly, who.

In Australia, Disney+ launches on November 19 and Apple TV+ launches on November 1. Which one will you be giving a go and how much is too much when it comes to monthly subscription fees? Let me know in the comments down below.

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