STREAMING SATURDAY: Streampocalypse begins


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There’s an old saying that translates roughly to, “if you are patient enough, you will always be right.” In other words, every prediction you make will come true if you wait long enough. That seems to apply here to the idea of “Streampocalypse,” a term I originally coined back at the end of 2020. Even back then I was predicting that major streaming services would merge or close, and that’s certainly been happening. Take for example the merging of HBO and Discovery content. Granted, that one didn’t go so well. But that doesn’t mean things are going to get worse.

This week’s rumors point to… a little bit of a mess​

Just in the last week, there have been three little tidbits of news that point to major consolidation in the streaming space. The first is that apparently Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are going to have some sort of merged sports service. It’s not clear if this will be a single hub that works on both the Max and Disney+ apps, or if we’ll see a new app spawned. But signs of cooperation between these two one-time foes certainly came as a surprise to many.

Following that, Warner Bros. Discovery also announced that they are shuttering MotorTrend+, a standalone paid streaming app which licenses the name of respected magazine Motor Trend for car-centric content. It’s a result of mergers which put the magazine, the cable channel (which was once known as Velocity) and HBO’s streaming hub under one roof. I’m guessing that with the high cost of Max, a niche app like MotorTrend+ was just too expensive to maintain given the low subscriber count. Motor Trend content will move over to Max, probably; it’s not clear if it will be paywalled over time, as WBD is threatening to do with its CNN and B/R Sports coverage on Max.

And, not to be outdone, it’s beginning to look like there could be some sort of merger or partnership that would combine the Peacock and Paramount+ apps. Peacock has had a bumpy ride as a super-low-priced service with premium tiers that occasionally seem worthwhile. Paramount+ struggles to justify its own existence beyond its spate of Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Yellowstone content. Paramount’s own movie studio has shrunk so much that they aren’t making enough films to fill their own app with content. Certainly the twin blows of the pandemic and the strikes didn’t help.

I’m not sure how this would impact live/broadcast television​

There may be folks who believe that over-the-air TV is dead, but believe as much as you want — it still doesn’t make it true. Even the incredibly lax hand of today’s FCC isn’t likely to allow Disney to merge its broadcast operations with those of Warner Brothers. They’re even less likely to allow Comcast, who owns NBC, to merge with Paramount, who owns CBS.

Before there was any formal content sharing between any of these titans, there would have to be some serious scrutiny. When Discovery Networks took on Warner Brothers from AT&T, there were already some worries about this. AT&T’s purchase of Warner was fraught with politics to start with, and it certainly didn’t get any better when Discovery got involved. That combined entity, Warner Bros. Discovery, already controls dozens of formerly independent broadcasting operations. Allowing them to commingle their content with that of Disney, who already operates branded channels under the Disney, Fox, ESPN, and ABC names, isn’t likely to be popular.

Comcast and Paramount may not control as many media outlets, but this kind of fraternization between two of the historical “big three” broadcast networks won’t go unnoticed. Most folks don’t know this, but ABC itself was formed because the government decided that NBC was too big. It was split off in order to increase competition. Sure, that was then. This is now. But I can’t imagine merging CBS and NBC would go over well.

Will this be good for the consumer?​

It certainly seems like we are beginning to move back to the way things started. We’re getting back to a world where 3 or 4 streaming apps control the entire landscape. Back in the early 2010s, Netflix and Hulu were more or less all you needed. We may be getting back to that level. The difference? Back in 2010, both Netflix’s streaming app and Hulu’s were free. My guess is that if it gets down to three apps, each will cost $33 or more every month.

I think consumers need to watch developments like this closely. If you have a small streaming app that really lights you up, keep your eyes open. They may be the next one to disappear.

The post STREAMING SATURDAY: Streampocalypse begins appeared first on The Solid Signal Blog.

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