The streaming war's first victim: your wallet

By Javier TOVAR
The soon-to-launch platform Disney+ is one of the major new players in a streaming war that is only set to intensify Photo: AFP/File

With two young daughters, Mery Montenegro is preparing to add Disney+ to her list of streaming subscriptions, which already includes Netflix, Hulu and Amazon -- and, when combined with her cable TV bill, costs her almost $1,500 per year.

Her eldest Victoria, 6, asks every day when the new platform will launch, with its impressive catalogue of films and series from all of Disney's studios.

The answer is Nov 12: Mery, who works at an advertising agency in Washington, knows the date well. It's the day she'll start paying $6.99 more per month.

Disney+, HBO Max (AT&T), Peacock (Comcast), Apple TV+ and the new short video platform Quibi are all players in a streaming war that will only grow worse at a time when more Americans prefer streaming to cable.

"It's going to have a huge impact on people's budgets," said Tom Nunan, an Oscar-winning film producer and professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Theater, Film and Television.

"I don't think that there is enough room for subscription relationships with all of these streamers for a typical American."

In a Deloitte survey published in March, 69 percent of respondents said they had at least one streaming subscription, while 65 percent said they had cable.

And while many households have cut the cord to go cable-free with the advent of streaming, 43 percent of those surveyed were paying for both.

Mery, 36, is in the third group, and not by choice.

In her neighborhood of Alexandria, west of the US capital, she says she found no internet-only option cheaper than her current plan, so she pays $90 per month for a cable subscription she "hardly" uses, other than for news or the occasional baseball game.

To that, she adds $5.99 each month for Hulu -- the service's cheapest plan, with commercials -- and $16 for Netflix, which she considers essential.

"I use it on the subway when I go to work, to cook, to watch something at home," she explained.

Mery also pays $12.99 per month for e-commerce giant Amazon's Prime membership, which includes its streaming service. Prime is also useful for renting movies, which Mery prefers over the cinema, curling up with a glass of wine after the girls have gone to bed.

That's $124.98 per month, soon plus $6.99 for Disney+. Total: $131.97 per month, or $1,583.64 per year.

That's where Mery draws the line, since she doesn't want to spend her whole paycheck on subscriptions. But the streaming options are limitless.

From YouTube, which has a Premium version for $11.99 per month, to platforms for Broadway lovers or wrestling fans, to all professional sports leagues, which offer different packages for fans.

The Los Angeles Times previously listed 40 streaming options, which would cost a total of $353.43 per month, but the Deloitte survey mentioned up to 300 different streaming services.

Almost half of people surveyed (47 percent) said they were "frustrated by the growing number of subscriptions and services," which make it "harder to find the content they want," the study said.

"Back at the beginning, it wasn't a hard decision... to sign up for Netflix or Amazon. It was just two streamers," said Nunan. "But am I really going to sign up for six streamers or seven? As the normal consumer, I doubt it."

Gene Del Vecchio, a marketing professor at the University of Southern California (USC) who specializes in entertainment, estimated that users will end up with the same complaint that currently causes them to drop cable: they spend a lot of money for a lot of programs they don't watch.

"I think what may happen is that they will look for one a la carte menu," he said. "They will start to say, I just want these individual shows, and I don't want to pay for all of this other programming that I never watch."

Amazon already allows people to buy episodes or seasons, without subscribing to Prime Video.

Del Vecchio also thinks subscription rates will increase over the next decade to finance original shows, and that streamers will seek to end the current strategy where several friends or family members share one account, in an effort to gain new paying users.

Another strategy, similar to cable plans, will be to offer discounted annual contracts. Disney+ is already doing this, as is Amazon.

"Here' the ironic thing: five, 10 years from now, it's going to look like the cable industry all over again," predicted Del Vecchio.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Long live the pirates and God bless them! Their threat is the only thing that will ever get these greed bags in line.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I cut the cable long ago. Movies and television programs I want to watch are free from the library. The occasional NFL game (and Super Bowl - haven't missed a single one of those in all the years) are watched at my local pub. I don't miss TV, that's for sure, and the prices mentioned in this article are a bit lower than the Canadian cable company that I used to deal with. Here, there are two cable monopolies, and they sold each other some of the areas where they competed, so they could truly become geographic/market monopolies. The only way to protest that kind of corporate collusion is to cancel service.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I was writing about this dilemma on another story here on JT. The proliferation of streaming sites is only going to cost consumers more especially as each site monopolizes more content from each other. I like how there had been only two or three major streamers the last 10-15 years.

As for the lady Mery above, she may need to tell her kids to suck it up forget about Disney Plus and just stick to one streaming site. She should ditch her cable if she's only watching an occasional baseball game and news.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Who really needs to sub to so many streaming sites though? Are you really consuming so much content on a regular basis? If there's a show you want to watch just sub for a month and cancel it. I can see the mentality though, "oh, it's only 1000yen a month, that's not so much", but when they build up all of a sudden you're paying a lot of money unexpectedly! For me, between Prime, Netflix 4K plan, and DAZN, I pay over 5000yen a month!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Never use them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'm subscribed to Netflix which I use everyday as it has something for everyone in the family. I also have Amazon Prime but that is really for the free delivery on shopping, I hardly ever use the Prime TV. Unless Netflix content really takes a dive I just can't see why I need to add to it, the children aren't sat in front of the TV all day and neither is my mrs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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