This year the TV industry’s upfront week where it unveils new shows is also “streaming week.” At the same time that America’s biggest media companies are touting their new dramas and sitcoms, they are also talking up their plans for streaming platforms that will look a lot like Netflix.
On Monday NBCUniversal hyped its forthcoming service, noting that ads will be included. And on Wednesday WarnerMedia (CNN’s parent) and CBS are expected to tout their respective plans.
Each streaming service is in a different phase of development. Each company’s strategy is distinct. Each price point is different. Frankly it’s all pretty confusing, and it will continue to be confusing for the next couple of years. But the upshot for consumers is clear: More streaming services are coming, and they’re going to cost you. In the past, Netflix has resembled an all-you-can-eat buffet.
But some of Netflix’s biggest suppliers — such as Comcast and Disney — are opening their own restaurants. Lemme stretch the analogy a bit: The future looks more like a food court. If you want a bite of each, you’ll have to pay separately for each, albeit with some exceptions.
Here’s what happened on Tuesday
- On Tuesday morning Disney and Comcast announced a complex deal that will give Disney full control of Hulu right away and will unwind Comcast’s stake in the years to come. The days of Hulu as a joint venture are officially over. Every network is on its own now. But NBC’s exit from Hulu will happen slowly.
- Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke at MoffettNathanson’s investor conference and said “we’re not purposely trying to do anything to damage the bundle, because it still has a lot of value,” but “we’re prepared to pivot in a new direction.”
- Speaking of the bundle, CNBC’s Alex Sherman published some new details about how NBCU’s service will work: The free version will require a cable or satellite log-in. The paid version, “likely around $10 per month,” will include lots of library content, like reruns of past seasons. So the service will clearly favor customers who stay subscribed to the cable bundle…
- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spoke about WarnerMedia’s plans at a J.P. Morgan investor conference. He promoted the Warner Bros. collection of shows and movies and said, “We will be bringing a lot of these media rights, licensing rights, back to ourselves to put on our own SVOD product, video-on-demand product.” This is similar to NBC’s talk about bringing shows “home…”
- Stephenson also talked about supporting the existing cable bundle: “If you’re a Comcast subscriber and you acquire HBO, you will get this capability with your HBO subscription on Comcast.” Over time, he said, John Stankey and Bob Greenblatt’s as-yet-unnamed streaming service will be AT&T’s “key video product…”
The takeaway from all this? Online media exec Peter Kafka summed it up: “While today it’s pretty easy to find most of TV’s biggest hits by subscribing to Netflix and Hulu, in a few years, many of those shows will be scattered to rival services: If you want everything, you’ll need to get Netflix and Hulu and NBCUniversal’s thing and AT&T’s thing and Disney’s other streaming service.”