December 20, 2022
I recently marveled at the vast array of streaming content at my fingertips — movies barely out of theaters, big-budget series I could binge in one afternoon — as well as at the fact that it all came at a lower price than our old cable service. (We cut the cord a while ago.)
Then I thought to myself, “This won’t last.”
Indeed, the Golden Age of streaming for consumers seems to be coming to an end. Now that Wall Street has realized that streaming will have to generate a profit as legacy distribution flags, financiers are putting pressure on companies to make it pay. When the distribution method was new, Wall Street hailed streamers for gathering subscribers and offering ever more expensive content to entice them. No longer.
Suddenly dismayed at Disney’s losses from its streaming service, investors helped push out CEO Bob Chapek, who had been doing what Wall Street previously wanted by growing streaming as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Warner’s experiment with theatrical releases hitting HBO Max at the same time had earlier been scrapped by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav as he looked at looming debt and layoffs.
“We’re going to be open to all … forms of distribution … to get the best return for every dollar of content spend,” his CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said at a recent confab.
Indeed, streaming prices are on the way up.
“We will move prices up, no question about it,” said Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish at a December conference, echoing the sentiment of his counterparts. “We feel very comfortable with our ability to do that.”
And ads are headed to previously ad-free services such as Netflix and Disney+. Indeed, consumers will have to pay more to dodge those ads and even get some of the premium content. A recent study by Reelgood noted that Netflix’s ad-supported service features significantly less content — hundreds of fewer movies and TV shows. Some of the most popular movies on Netflix, including Sony’s Bullet Train, are not available on the ad-supported service. Popular TV shows not available on the Netflix ad-supported service include “The Walking Dead,” “New Girl” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
In the streaming future, we’ll all be paying more for less. So I’ll be streaming as much as I can before the shine comes off this Golden Age.