The Curious Case of Too Many Streaming Service Buttons

Couple Sitting On Sofa At Home Using Laptop Computer And Watching TV
Photo: iStock

Remember the days of yore when you confidently said, “I’m cutting the cord!”, took those shackles off your feet so you could dance into freedom and proudly escaped the damn scam known as cable bundling? Me too.

Womp.

Cut to 2019 and I don’t feel as confident about it. Why? Because there are now too many damn streaming service options. When most of us first decided to cut the cord, we likely only had to juggle Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, at best. However, I reckon a lot of the production companies and networks who previously licensed their content to this holy streaming trifecta started to notice that each of these companies was also producing their own content and profiting pretty well from it. And when I say profit, I mean financially and by merit. Netflix, in particular—which is an interesting mixture of a production company, network, and acquisition company—did the unthinkable and tied with HBO for most Emmy wins in 2018, according to Variety. Additionally, according to Forbes, its stock has risen 8,500 percent in the past 10 years.

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Next thing I knew, networks were pulling major TV franchises so that they could host them on their own upcoming streaming platforms. Then, there was Disney’s recent chess move of acquiring Comcast’s stake in Hulu. Plus, Mickey Mouse’s home will be launching its own streaming service, Disney+ later this year (November). And today—yes, as I post this on July 9, 2019—HBO recently announced an exclusive streaming channel called HBO Max.

We’re currently living in an age where we have the blessing and curse of “too much great content,” specifically in television. There is really a lot of quality content on the small screen, so much that you can’t even watch it all in time to talk about it at social gatherings. Whew. That is a lot of pressure. Anyway, if all of that great content were to spread out across multiple platforms, forcing you to purchase each of them, wellhow quickly does it add up to (and surpass) the price of the cable bundle?!

Therein lies the conundrum.

As Vox’s Emily Todd VanDerWerff explained in her March 2019 article about the befuddling phenomenon:

At least two major cable companies — AT&T and Comcast — are about to have affiliated streaming platforms (WarnerMedia and NBCUniversal, which is an investor in Vox Media, respectively). So they might not be thrilled to play ball with Netflix or Disney or [insert other entertainment company here] when creating cable bundles 2.0, given that doing so might directly enrich their competitors.

But at the same time, my guess is that most of these companies know they’re not going to wipe massive companies like Netflix or Disney from the face of the earth — to say nothing of a company like Apple, which is still waiting in the wings with its own proposed streaming service, or YouTube, which has struggled to launch its own subscription service but owns the viewership habits of the generation just entering its teens and 20s.

Which means that eventually, we’ll probably go right back to the cable bundle as the only real option for getting access to film and TV content at home. Those who really want to will still be able to assemble their own packages à la carte (presuming that the death of net neutrality doesn’t result in cable companies privileging their own streaming services to the exclusion of others, which is an entirely different ball of wax).

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So, after all of this, we’re going to eventually patch up the cord we cut so triumphantly? Ah, the circle of strife.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.