The video streaming landscape is ever-evolving, so Boardroom breaks down the numbers and shares some hot takes on the future of television and film distribution.
Video streaming wars are upon us, and continued entertainment giant mergers are bound to be a part of the discussion.
WarnerMedia’s merger with Discovery in May 2021 is sparking a larger debate about how streaming mergers will affect the future of TV and film. WarnerMedia – the parent company of HBO Max – and Discovery – the owner of Discovery+ – are gearing up to launch their joint streaming service dubbed Max sometime in Spring 2023. The highly-anticipated new streaming service will encompass all content from both companies’ networks. It’s worth noting that fans aren’t too happy with WarnerMedia for cancelling shows and archiving content in the lead-up to fit in the new platform.
In addition, there will be significant competition in the market when Max goes live next year. Arguably every major TV network manages its own streaming service at this point, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which content is exclusive to the network or the streaming platform. Services such HBO Max almost make you have to buy into their streaming service if you want to view HBO content whenever you want. As it stands, the platform streams all HBO content, exclusive Max Originals shows, and other movies and classic series that you won’t get access to by simply paying for HBO.
There are pros and cons to consider when it comes to streaming mergers. While there are some obvious pros including catalog expansion and fewer services on the market to have to subscribe to, a big con maybe be the presence of advertisements making the streaming service experience feel like cable – an experience that many consumers don’t want.
This might be a very hot take, but seeing what WarnerMedia is doing with HBO Max pushes me to believe that streaming services will overtake traditional TV and film distribution in the future. Streaming is too convenient, service consolidation could lead to better prices and simplicity, and consumers love accessing their favorite content via apps on their smart devices. On the flip side, who wants to pay for 20 or so streaming services? The best part about cable: a bunch of entertainment content can be found on one platform.
Let’s break down some numbers and trends as to how streaming mergers may eventually make streaming services superior.
By the Numbers
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ are leading the charge in shaping the streaming landscape as they draw in the most global subscribers.
Here are the top 10 television and film streaming services arranged by global subscriber numbers, per Variety’s State of Streaming report:
- Netflix: 223.1 million
- Amazon Prime Video: 200 million
- Disney+: 152.1 million
- Hulu: 46.2 million
- Paramount+: 43.3 million
- HBO Max: 26.9 million
- Starz: 24.4 million
- Apple TV+: 20 million
- Discovery+: 17.3 million
- Peacock: 15 million
This data is based on paid subscribers, which means Amazon Prime Video has a leg up since all of the platform’s Prime users automatically get access to its video streaming platform. Streaming video services are bringing in big numbers, which look even bigger compared to cable TV operators.
Here are the top 10 cable operators by subscriber numbers, per the Leichtman Research Group:
- Comcast (Xfinity): 16.5 million
- Charter Communications (Spectrum): 15.2 million
- DirectTV (DirectTV, DirectTV Stream): 13.5 million
- Dish (Dish Network): 7.6 million
- YouTube (YouTube TV): 5 million*
- Hulu (Hulu + Live TV): 4.4 million
- Verizon (Fios): 3.3 million
- Cox Communications (Contour): 3.1 million
- Dish Network (Sling TV): 2.4 million
- Altice (Optimum): 2.4 million
*YouTube TV does not routinely report subscriber totals, but this figure comes from a June 2022 blogpost
The movie theater is a critical player in the film industry that we can’t forget in this discussion. I wouldn’t call it a complete comeback, but movie theaters are having a nice moment with sequels from the Spider-Man and Top Gun franchises breaking into the highest-grossing sequels list in the past year. It’s hard to compare theaters to video streaming services and cable operators, but they still hold a special spark that movie lovers will always seemingly love.
What Happens Next?
Streaming services are the present and the future. It’s hard to believe networks will walk back their streaming ambitions to return to releasing content in primetime slots via cable services. One aspect of traditional TV that will remain is access to national and local news, but even that area of content is making its way to streaming services.
Cracking down on password sharing and offering a variety of advertisement-free tiers will make or break the progression of video streaming service acceptance, in my opinion. It’ll be interesting to see how services address these offerings and meet customer demand.
We’ll continue tracking streaming mergers and progress in the near future. It’s hard to tell which service will become the most popular if any, but they all can’t sit at the top.