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    • Streaming is a huge part of our digital lives. Rather than straight up buying digital content, paying a monthly subscription to gain access to enormous libraries of content seems to be preferable for many people, myself included. Family plans make subscriptions much more attractive as well. Spotify's subscription fee actually gets cheaper per person as more people join the family plan, and a single Netflix account can be used by five individuals, each with their own personal profiles. Streaming services offer such good value for money that the piracy of online media, such as music, has declined rapidly over the last few years.

      While Spotify commands the music streaming industry, Netflix has long held the crown for movie and TV streaming. Recently though, studios that have traditionally licensed their content to Netflix decided that they too want a piece of the streaming pie, which led to the birth of rival streaming platforms, such as Disney+ and WarnerMedia's as of yet unnamed streaming service. Now usually, more choices would be good for consumers as it prevents one company from monopolising an industry, which could lead to a lack of innovation or even practices which might not be in the best interest of consumers, such as increasing product prices. But can the existence of too many streaming platforms actually be bad for consumers? I think it could be, at least at first.

      Choice is normally good for consumers, assuming all those choices are available to begin with. Netflix has expanded to cover a huge area of the globe (see above image). More than 190 countries to be exact. It's reasonable to expect that Disney's and WarnerMedia's respective streaming platforms won't be available in all 190 countries at launch, although they could one day reach as many consumers as Netflix currently does. Or not. We don't know yet. But that's only half the problem. The other half, is content. Netflix used to be a one-stop streaming platform where you could get a variety of content from various studios. However, as those studios are now going to be hosting their own streaming services, their content will not be on Netflix much longer. Disney will begin to pull all its Marvel movies from Netflix this year, and the upcoming "Captain Marvel" will be the first MCU film that won't be available on Netflix at all. It's not just the movies, almost all of Marvel's Netflix shows have also been cancelled, despite how incredible some of them are. On the other side of the comic universe, DC's Arrowverse might face the same fate as well. This mass exodus of content isn't limited to the superhero genre alone, even classics like "Friends" will also be pulled from Netflix one day. Ultimately, Netflix will lose a lot of content when these rival streaming platforms are up and running.

      And this is why having too many choices will be bad for consumers. At least with regards to movie and TV show streaming. Consumers from around the globe can currently enjoy all this digital content on Netflix, but with rival studios pulling their content, combined with the probability that their own platforms won't be available globally anytime soon, consumers will be left with few options. Which is ironic, considering the fact that they will be put in this predicament because the industry actually wants to give them more options. If I had to take a guess, I'd predict that Netflix losing all this content will actually lead to a rise in piracy, as many people around the world will no longer be able to watch some of their favourite movies and TV shows on the platform any more.

      What do you think? Is it actually a good thing that other streaming platforms are going to be competing with Netflix? Or do you think that the golden age of streaming could be coming to an end?

    • Speaking from the USA, I have been worried about this as a consumer. I think that competition is great, but I'm worried that in the end my monthly streaming subscription fees are going to be just as expensive as my cable subscription was, and more expensive.

      Let's say, for example, I cut cable but I really like Mr. Robot (Hulu), The Walking Dead (AMC), Stranger Things (Netflix), Star Trek Discovery (CBS), Marvel shows (Now Disney Streaming), Game of Thrones and West World (HBO), The Expanse (Amazon Prime). Now I need to pay for Hulu, Netflix, CBS, Disney Streaming, CBS all access, HBO, Amazon Prime (7 streaming services) and AMC also doesn't have a streaming service, so I need to pay A La Cart on iTunes. Assuming $15 per streaming services (which isn't quite fair, but lets say they get there on average eventually), if all these shows are running at the same time I'm now paying $115 a month to stream the content that I want, which is edging pretty close to cable. Now if I like sports, like say American hockey, I might need to pay $30 a month to stream games. So if I want to legitimately watch all these shows, we are back up to the same price, if not more, than a cable subscription.

      So in terms of potential cost per month, it could start getting pretty pricey.

      On the other hand, the only reason it is starting to get expensive is because I'm paying for extremely good content. My money isn't going to subsidize awful reality shows on off networks that I'm not interested in. It is going directly to the shows I like; or at least more directly. Now these services can't just skate along as part of a cable package. They must produce high quality and interesting content in order for me to keep their service, as I can cancel any time. It's easy to cancel when I want, and I may only need to just pay for a month a time and binge.

      In the end, I think it's going to be better for consumers. If it's just Netflix, they are only incentivized to create maybe 4-6 great shows year round to keep people subscribing. If there are 10 different streaming services, now we may get 40-60 great shows to choose from. Which I think, in the end, is better than paying the same price for thousands of garbage shows on typical cable.

    • On the other hand, the only reason it is starting to get expensive is because I'm paying for extremely good content. My money isn't going to subsidize awful reality shows on off networks that I'm not interested in.

      Hmm. I agree with your description of the problem (lots of good shows spread across too many different streaming services), but I'm not sure I agree with this. Unless you're watching every single piece of content on every streaming service you subscribe to, you're always subsidizing something.

      Right now I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now. That list is roughly in the order of the amount of time I spend using each service. But I spend far more time overall watching movies and TV shows that I buy or rent a la carte from iTunes.

      Four streaming service subscriptions is definitely my limit. Of the ones I subscribe to, I most often consider dumping HBO Now. HBO's streaming quality is much worse than the other services, and the only reason I subscribe is because it's the only way to watch spoilerific shows like Game of Thrones at air time (as opposed to buying them on iTunes the next day after the Internet has already spoiled them).

      I care a lot about video and audio quality. Netflix and Amazon Prime are solid in this area. Hulu is mostly pretty good. HBO Now and a lot of other streaming services are downright awful. It's almost embarrassing how bad some of them are. I'd much rather buy a la carte from iTunes than pay for CBS All Access, for example, because CBS's streaming quality is so terrible.

      The big three streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu) have all invested huge amounts of time and effort in the technical aspects of streaming. It seems like newer streaming services aren't interested in making those investments and would much rather just take people's money in exchange for access to walled-off content. That doesn't bode well for the future.