We are on the cusp of the "streaming apocalypse." That's what Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff calls the current TV landscape. In addition to the traditional TV infrastructure, we have also got streaming players such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Now and CBS All Access. And more are about to enter the scene. Apple TV + has just launched, Disney + is launching November 12, HBO Max is coming in May 2020, and Peacock from NBC Universal is coming in April next year.
"It's definitely a situation where everyone gets their horses in their own stable, and then they give you access to come and see the horses," Emily said of this episode of Today, Explained .
So why do all these new streaming services show up?
You have all these companies that realize the value of their directory titles, because if you watch Netflix viewership, the most viewership on Netflix is still these shows that became popular on traditional TV, run for hundreds of hundreds of episodes, and They are all owned by other companies. NBC owns The Office . Warner Media owns Friends . Disney owns Gray's # Anatomy . CBS owns Cheers Frasier some of these shows.
All these shows are owned by other companies. And the other companies are like, “Hey, look at all the money Netflix is making. And also, if Netflix gets so big that we depend on it as our distribution system, we are essentially dependent on it to show other people our programming, that's an existential threat to us. ”
Listen to Today, explained to VanDerWerff's breakdown of what to expect from each of the new streaming services and how much they will cost, in addition to what this means for future entertainment . Below we have shared a slightly edited print of the conversation.
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We have all these new streaming services as well as a bunch of old ones. Netflix. HBO. Hulu. Amazon. Peacock. Apple. Disney. Disk. Table. Chair. Whatever. Who's going to win these streaming wars?
I don't know. I think many people assume that Netflix will be No. 1 forever because Netflix is No. 1 right now. But … do you remember Dr. Strange in the Marvel movie Infinity War ? At the end of the movie, he kind of goes through all the scenarios and he picks out the one where the Avengers win. That's what happens to Netflix right now. The number of scenarios they have where they could win is getting a little smaller each year because they have all these presses outside.
Wait, do you think Netflix could actually lose on all this?
Yes. In a post-online neutrality world, your ISP may charge more money to watch Netflix. HBO Max is connected to an Internet service provider. It is connected to AT&T companies UVerse and DirecTV in a world of neutrality. You may not have to pay extra to watch HBO Max if you are an AT&T subscriber, giving HBO Max a leg up over Netflix. This is kind of part of why I'm bullish on Peacock because Peacock is connected to Comcast, one of the largest cable companies in the world, and in a post-net neutrality world, winning is a matter less about who has the best content or who has the best interface or something, it's so much more a question of what you can see and what part of the country you live in.
So it's a big strike against Netflix because without Net neutrality will have the platforms connected to cable and internet providers, will do better. Can we stick with the baseball analogy? Is it strike two?
Strike two against them is now they have lost The office they have lost Friends so the random subscribers, they are like, "I should actually subscribe to this instead because it has what I like. " So they lose a bunch of those subscribers.
Okay, strike two is they lose their biggest show. Dare I ask to sit here in the District of Champions, home of the Washington Nationals, for a strike three?
The third thing is that they have huge amounts of debt. At a certain point, debt comes. And they have to find a way to settle the debt. They start charging more for subscriptions, which drives more people away, which means they have to pay more for subscriptions, which drives more people away. And they also pay a premium on top of what they pay for Netflix to ISP to watch Netflix.
Probably not all of these things will happen. Probably there will be, you know, one or two of them. But if all of them happen and Netflix gets caught in a spiral where it's getting more and more expensive and people are like, "I have other options now, I'll look at one of these." And at that point, you know, Netflix is starting to look pretty reasonable as something that an Apple can get. I do not think this will actually happen, but that it is not out of the way, and that is not something I would have said two years ago.
Although it was a long shot, the Avengers finally won, so stick to your analogy here, where Avengers is Netflix, is there a possible future where Netflix can win?
Netflix could absolutely win. It's a scenario where they've become so synonymous with streaming, where people are like, "We're just going to Netflix something tonight," like, where it gets so synonymous in the way that Google has become synonymous with search that they just can't be defeated.
One of the other solutions is Netflix is big enough, maybe they buy some studio catalog. You've got the Sony Pictures directory and the Paramount directory are both just hanging out there for anyone who wants to buy them, because both of these companies are struggling a little financially. So maybe Netflix buys it. Maybe that's their solution to the content problem. Because again, I don't think they are going anywhere. But I think they are stuck in this place where they have to navigate a bunch of possible futures, and many of them end catastrophically.
I wonder when we talk about all these different services and how people will choose and choose between them, how will it affect our monoculture or kill it further or affect our culture as a whole?
I'm worried about this. Pop culture is one of the things that unites us as Americans, and much of our pop culture is bad. But the fact that a whole bunch of people watch The Masked Singer every week, or everybody saw the Game of Thrones finale, I love that aspect of our pop culture, and I really worry because it goes away. And people have treated it as an inevitability for a long time. And I never have because there's always something, there's always something going on, whether it's the Marvel movies, whether it's, you know, Taylor Swift, whether it's Beyonce … it's always these things that cross and hits big. And I worry about a world where it doesn't happen.
I worry about a world where things that become monoculture are actually very small and very specific to certain niche cultures. And I'm worried that this will further stratify society. Nor do I see an easy way out of it. And if I think about it at the same time, the natural standard status of humanity is to have several small regional cultures that do not add to a monoculture, but are kind of in conversation with each other. And maybe we'll just come back to it. Maybe the 20th century when we had this monoculture was a blip and maybe we get back to our natural state, and maybe I should just feel good about it.