The Streaming Wars

Curious on what is people’s take on this at the moment. We’re not much into streaming in my household; wife is not into most streaming shows, kids prefer Youtube, and I watch too much in spurts to justify having a permanent subscription. So we tend to have an on/off relationship to most of the streaming platforms. The exception being HBO Nordic, which is included (for “points”) in our cable subscription, which means that I’ve usually just left it opted-in as part of the package, except for short periods when there have been alternative services I’m more interested in. Our cable provider has recently added Netflix in a similar manner, but as yet too expensive and difficult to get access to (need to upgrade the service -at cost - which just… nope).

Feel like I’m seeing a shift in the landscape this past half year, though. Firstly, Disney+ has improved, to the extent that it feels more like an actual competitor, rather than something to pick up once in a while to catch up with the latest MCU show (sadly the price has also increased). Secondly, HBO Max is launching hard in these parts, with an offer of 50% off permanently (i.e., as long as you keep the subscription); i.e., a monthly subscription of ~$5. Since I can actually reduce my cable subscription by more than that amount simply by dropping half the points I often use on HBO Nordic), I’m planning to pick up that deal and finally subscribe “permanently” to a streaming service (at least until they try to screw me over with a price hike some time in the future).

At the same time, Disney+ is teasing a 75% off for one month offer at the moment, which I’ll probably pick up so that I can watch Hawkeye (and then drop the moment the price returns to normal).

In the interim as D+ and HBO have been being extremely aggressive in capturing market share, I’ve seen exactly zero good offers from Netflix (and they’re also one of the few services that pretty much never have “first subscriber” offers or anything like that). Is their position in the streaming market really that dominant? Or is it just in this part of the world they’re so passive and certain of their market share? I know most people can’t be bothered to drop their subscriptions when not using them, but when I can get an (arguably superior) streaming subscription at 1/3 the cost… well, Netflix is going to have to work harder and harder to get my money.

Just wondering if what I’m seeing here is an aberration, or a trend.

I hope they all survive and are all able to give us lots of excellent TV shows and movies.

I’m actually currently subscribed to more than any time in the past. I try to avoid overlapping subscriptions, preferring to do one at a time. But it’s been a combination of getting longer term subs (I got Paramount+ for a year for $35 early this year, and have Disney+ that way too) and not wanting to give up HBO Max just yet because this is the year they’re bringing all those theatrical movies to the small screen day and date, I figure I’ll throw some extra money there way this year.

My current subscription of the month is Netflix, and I have to admit, there’s such good content here since the last time I subscribed. I loved Squid Game, and Queen’s Gambit is already exceeding my already high expectations.

I’m also wanting to back to Hulu soon for Only Murders in the Building. Wanting to go to Peacock Premium for Yellowstone. Wanting to go to Prime Video for Invincible.

I’m also looking forward to Discovery+ content potentially being integrated into HBO Max next year.

I wish Paramount+ would improve their app. They finally added a watch list, but they really need a more visually pleasing way of presenting some of the excellent movies they have on the service.

Funny, I just saw an interesting screen grab from an analytics report. This company has developed a metric for ‘demand share’ of TV shows, as opposed to market share of subscriptions. Measured this way, Netflix seems well on their way to losing dominance in entire genres. Which to me suggests they are at risk of becoming niche, or at least not being able to increase princes while the other majors work their way up to the same $10-20/mo range. My next question would be whether luring subscribers with cheap offers has anything to do with actual content demand–guessing Netflix has found not much correlation.

We have antenna TV and could get by with that and Netflix and Prime, and we could flip Netflix off for a bit and be ok.

We also have AT&T TV and HBO Max but will lose both at the end of the year. They are an employee benefit and my GF is probably retiring. Oh, and we have free Apple TV for a year from an iPad purchase. I think we have 8-9 months left.

I can see us having nothing more than antenna and Prime, and subbing for short periods with some other services to binge a few things. With the antenna TV we get Pluto and that has a lot of stuff. It’s not like we run out of things to watch. Our LG TV comes with some channels too.

So we are all in on streaming, but we don’t need to sub to a lot of different ones at once.

I keep forgetting Pluto TV exists. Whenever I do remember, I tune it to the MST3K channel that shows MST3K episodes 24/7.

I also use Kanopy and Hoopla to view stuff courtesy of my local libraries. They’ve got really great movies and some great British TV shows on there.

I haven’t even tried that, but that’s a good idea. I forgot stuff like that was available.

Netflix believe that economies of scale will win in this space. They aim for a positive feedback cycle, where more subscribers means they’ll be able to invest more in content, which feeds back to more subscribers. And secondarily, whoever has the most subscribers will also have the most word of mouth, probably quadratically, which again leads to more subscribers.

It used to be unclear whether that theory was valid, or just something that sounded good. One part of it was that Netflix is just so bad at making good decisions on the content, the other part was that their profits appeared to be based on accounting tricks (amortizing the content across four years) while they had negative cash flow in the billions. But now it looks like their theory was indeed probably correct.

So what you’re seeing is Warner/HBO and Disney trying to buy that scale. They both have a good start on it, and probably can be succesful without having to reach quite the Netflix subscriber numbers thanks to being better at making decisions on content. In particular, I suspect HBO needs to be extremely aggressive in the parts of Europe that they can operate in, to make up for being locked out of basically all major European markets due to licensing deals (they are missing the English-, French-, German-, and Italian-speaking parts).

Is there any more space at the top beyond those three? At this stage, I’d bet not. You need to do something totally different. Prime Video doesn’t need the scale due to being just an add-on rather than a service that needs to stand on its own feet. YouTube Premium is so different that it’s not competing for the same oxygen at all. But e.g. Apple TV is, I think, just fucked unless Apple manages to leverage their control of iOS again.

It’s a bit sad that Europe did not manage to get even one viable company into this space before the window of opportunity was closed.

They have enough money to fund Apple TV for years, though. And right now the TV service is sort of like Prime – a giveaway to Apple customers who buy new devices. If Apple keeps giving it away that way it may work for them.

They want people to buy a new phone or tablet every year or every other year. Your trade-in value + one year of Apple TV for buying a new device is appealing. My GF traded in her iPad, which was two generations old, I think, and got a new basic iPad for $120 and got the year of Apple TV.

The free apple tv with device is only 3 months now.

Disney+ is unbeatable if you have kids, so it’s the service that has a better chance against Netflix while being able to invest less into production.

But as @jsnell said, economies of scale do work (they are specially effective at holding subscribers) and Netflix seems to be far away from losing dominance overall. A big deal is the rediscovered importance of local content. Not only does Netflix directly produce a lot of content in many different countries and languages (Disney doesn’t even try and the little local stuff HBO has is mostly licensed, not directly funded) but they are becoming good at getting an international public to start enjoying these local productions (Squid Game being the best example so far) thus really multiplying the amount of content they can target at each subscriber.

None of them is going to have a choice going forward re: local content, with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive. Especially since most of the implementations seem to be going further than the baseline “30% European content” and requiring a certain amount of local revenue to be spent on local productions.

But yeah, Netflix is damn good at getting value from the international content. It’s hard to see how Disney would do the same given their content profile. And just like many of these other big EU directives, it might well end up benefitting the entrenched companies. What’s a marginal player like Paramount+ actually going to do about this?

(Answer, since I was curious: apparently the answer to set up yet another messy joint venture. This time with themselves, Comcast and Sky.)

I can’t speak to HBO Nordic/HBO Max in Nordic countries, but here in the UK Netflix is still by far the best service for my tastes, even if the lead isn’t as great as it was. Disney+ has been better than I expected, especially with the Star bit added, but it still doesn’t have the Hulu shows in a timely manner, and I don’t care about Marvel or particularly about Star Wars, so I’m just dipping in a couple times a year.

I think this is mainly a function of Disney+ going really hard in the Action/Adventure genre - it’s the majority of what they do in Disney proper, whereas Netflix has a way more diverse slate of originals, and action/adventure isn’t particularly big among them, especially now the Marvel shows are gone. Maybe that’s a strategic mistake, but I don’t think it’s a question of them going niche, quite the opposite. They’re trying to be all things to all people (and indeed all peoples - as mentioned above, Netflix’s international content is probably it’s biggest strategic strength, and isn’t dependent on a handful of global megabrands in the way Disney’s is).

Well, there’s Sky, but they largely strangled their own over the top service to protect their satellite revenue. It’s still better value in the UK than the satellite sub though.

Access to programming that requires me to jump thru the hoops of getting multiple services fails to clear my admittedly rather low barrier for how much shit I’ll hassle with in order to get to this content.

I’ve got Netflix and Prime and that’s it.

Frankly even the process used in delivering content for streaming pushes me away from it even as it’s meant to pull me towards it. Throwing an entire season at me all at once usually means if I’m interested in it I’ll binge it. The catch is I don’t ever make it back for another season because it takes years for it to show up. I move on, lose the thread, the gap is simply too great to keep me engaged.

Net: I don’t find steaming that compelling and over the last couple years I’ve taken to mostly buying the complete set of something I want to watch (that way I know it’s complete and I don’t have to play games trying to find the service that now monopolizes showing it).

Edit: I should mention I’m an outlier though as I have a near pathological hatred of recurring fees.

What’s kind of interesting to me: after a few years of really seeming to back-burner the importance of movie libraries to its service, Netflix over the last quarter or so seems to have REALLY stepped up their offerings in that aspect. That definitely seems like reaction to defend against HBOMax perhaps, with its deep MGM library and some Criterion crossover.

At some point, I think you can mabye see Disney+ consolidating Hulu into their platform, and maybe HBO/Peacock doing something similar – though that might be as a value-add for the $15 - $17 monthly subscription tier.

They kind of already have internationally.

Thanks all: this was exactly the discussion I was looking for when I wrote the OP.

I’d noticed that HBO had gone strongly into international productions: Beforeigners (soon to come in S2), My Brilliant Friend, Money Heist, 30 Coins, etc. His Dark Materials is British, IIRC. Hadn’t really thought about that Netflix were doing the same, but of course they are/have. For me, at the moment, HBO has the edge there - there’s just a lot more that I’m interested in watching on their service, compared to Netflix. Though part of that may just be that I’m not aware enough of what they offer - that’s one thing I’ve never understood about Netflix - deliberately making it difficult to find out what movies/series are available. Has kept me from spending money on Netflix more than once.

I don’t mind the recurring fees… as long as I feel that I’m getting value for my money. My/our viewing consumption is just not at the level where it makes sense to have more than one streaming service at a time. When the Witcher 2 drops, I’ll get Netflix again, and probably binge it and Squid Game during that month, probably watch a couple of movies … and during the entire time, I probably won’t watch anything on HBO (or D+, if I had it). The only reason I won’t drop HBO at the time, is that I’ll probably pick up on that half-price offer they have going currently.

The ideal service for me is really what my fixed cable company/internet provider has been trying to setup (and are getting closer to having now, with HBO Max and Netflix under the same umbrella) - a service where you can shift between the various streaming services at will, without being “locked in” for an entire month. I wouldn’t mind paying more than a single subscription fee for that kind of flexibility (though I won’t … HBO Max’s great offer + some exploitative business deals on the part of the cable provider ensure that it will be some time before I use their services for HBO/Netflix).

My feeling is I win if we manage to keep what we pay for TV under $40/month. I don’t count internet service as part of that. So internet and $40 TV and I’m good. Currently we are at about $35/month on TV.

Interesting. Money Heist is Netflix here, and His Dark Materials is BBC, obviously. Annoyingly, Beforeigners isn’t even available on Sky despite the deal with HBO, because HBO Nordic is separate apparently

Definitely. HBO Max had budgeted about $2B spent on content production in 2021. And most of it was American/British stuff (more expensive in general). Netflix will be over $13B this year, with a lot of cheap(er) international content.

Netflix is probably releasing close to an originally produced season per day now. And you have the back catalog.

His Dark Materials is a coproduction, not 100% original content, but a lot of HBO money in it.

Money Heist started as a local production here in Spain, but now it’s fully Netflix funded (lasted one season only as local, season 2 is 100% Netflix). I’m pretty sure it’s not on HBO anywhere.

Stuff like My Brilliant Friend is also a coproduction, which speaks volumes to HBO’s slow commitment to international production. Beforeigners is full HBO Nordic.

As for leveraging international content:

There’s a lot of fuzzy accounting, so take with a grain of salt, but as many people have watched money heist as HBO has global subscribers. Squid Game will top this significantly (it’s at 141M). And these are cheap as fuck series compared to US/British fantasy stuff like Game of Thrones and His Dark Materials.

(Of course Netflix also has expensive stuff and stuff nobody watches. But quantity has a quality, …etc)

That said HBO will survive not necessarily on high concept stuff, but things like White Lotus and Succession, which basically justify my yearly subscription on their own. They are the opposite of Netflix. They curate wonderfully.

But yeah, in general this is Netflix’s dominance to lose. Disney will do great and can compete, HBO need to spike up their production budget. $1B a year (current plan for HBO Max) won’t be enough to challenge Netflix, just to carve a (mostly English speaking) quality niche.