Streaming in 2024: more content, licenses, bundles, and ads
After a long period of focusing on growth and frustrating consumers with price hikes, the world’s largest streaming platforms seem to have understood that profitability is compatible with more consumer satisfaction.
Remember TV? It’s back. Millions ditched cable years ago so that they wouldn’t have to sit through a bunch of irrelevant commercials.
For a while, life was good – streaming platforms such as Netflix were cheap, ad-free, and full of exciting new content. It was a totally new, on-demand experience – while the streamers were fighting for their piece of the market pie, users enjoyed their binges for a penny.
But now, the adverts we were more than happy to escape are making a comeback, and they’re coming to streaming media, of course. Plus, to make ad-based tiers more attractive, companies have been raising membership fees for their ad-free plans and cracking down on password sharing.
This obviously made 2023 an unhappy year for many viewers, who have also been paying more for less since many media corporations launched their own platforms and took their shows off Netflix, the mothership.
Regularly subscribing to all this content became too difficult financially for some. Inflation has been a consideration for households throughout 2023, and some have chosen to pay less by jumping from one service to another.
Luckily, the industry is reacting to this growing discontent and instability. Companies have begun offering streaming bundles, and the studios are finally sending their popular older shows back to Netflix, the king of streaming.
Even if it looks and smells like traditional TV from a few years ago, consumers might finally be able to breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy their shows without worrying about their wallets too much.
Besides, the strikes in Hollywood are over – this will translate into more and better content.
So, what will streaming in 2024 look like? Here’s our take.
Ads are here to stay
Sure, when streaming services first hit the market, eliminating the advert experience was attractive to a lot of consumers. Watching programs uninterrupted seemed great, and it still is.
But, since growth in the overcrowded streaming market is now near-impossible, companies have realized one of the ways to boost revenue is to introduce special ad-based tiers and once again pump ads into content.
This has helped many platforms, including Netflix, to raise both their revenue and subscriber counts. But with Netflix, Max (former HBO Max), and Disney+ now offering cheaper plans with ads, consumers are back to square one.
Commercial breaks are still there, and content is spread out in multiple streaming outlets that can collectively now cost more than traditional cable TV packages.
However, fret not. As many have now seen, the ad experience in streaming is different than in cable. We used to be massively annoyed to watch 22 minutes of content and eight minutes of ads. However, for example, Disney+ limits ads to four minutes per hour of content. That’s not a lot.
How about free streaming?
Of course, many prefer to not pay at all, and here, the go-to choice seems to be free ad-supported stream television (FAST) channels such as Pluto TV, Tubi, and The Roku Channel. You watch some ads, but the content is free – it’s great.
Sure, the shows and the films might not be brand new but a report from Xumo and Comcast Advertising recently showed that super cost-friendly FAST is gaining swift momentum and that 56% of American viewers believe these channels are on par with cable.
Plus, the selection is usually vast, so there’s always something to watch. For example, Pluto TV offers CBS News, a bunch of reality TV, and channels dedicated to seemingly every possible genre or show – fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, South Park, Doctor Who, and thousands of others.
It’s like cable TV, but the cord is cut. Advertisers have joined the rush, too, because in streaming, they feel they can offer more personalized ad experiences powered by data.
Bundle up and win the race
Undoubtedly, though, millions still want to watch fresh and shiny shows but do not want to overpay for several platforms, each hosting a hit or two. As mentioned, the leading services have also been blocking password sharing – adding to consumer frustration.
But this kind of fragmentation – together with biting inflation – seems to be opening the way for streaming bundles. According to AlixPartners, customers are standing to save 20-50% on bundled services versus a la carte.
In November, Reuters reported that Verizon is planning to offer the ad-supported versions of Netflix and Warner Bros Discovery’s Max platforms for a combined $10 a month instead of around $17. Sure enough, the offering is already available.
Four to five players are expected to prevail in a “winner-takes-most” scenario, but it will allegedly take time.
And in December, The Wall Street Journal said that Apple TV+ and Paramount+ could also soon be offered as a bundle to subscribers at a discount. The lower price is certainly a factor, but the firms also know perfectly well how irritating it is for consumers to keep jumping between services to watch what they want.
Consolidation is inevitable, the AlixPartners report says, as the market currently has over 80 global streaming players. Four to five players are expected to prevail in a “winner-takes-most” scenario, but it will allegedly take time.
The process might have already started. Axios said this week that Warner Bros. Discovery is exploring a possible merger with Paramount, and the union of these large studios would surely considerably change the entertainment industry.
Netflix is the king
Or maybe not. Streaming services have long used their intellectual property as a carrot for new subscribers, requiring a subscription in order to watch a desired show.
“But as they pivot toward profitability, we predict some will take a more liberal approach to licensing,” Roku, a US company producing streaming devices and smart TVs, said in a report.
The process has already started, and it’s more than obvious that the big studios, once high on belief they can outperform Netflix, are now drifting back to the streaming giant with tails between their legs.
They’re taking their shows with them, too, and Netflix is happily paying for the license to include them in its catalog.
Already today, Netflix subscribers in select markets can enjoy HBO’s Band of Brothers and Six Feet Under, Showtime’s Yellowjackets, and many other shows from their supposed rivals. Disney will send at least 14 different series from ABC, Fox, FX, and even ESPN to Netflix across 18 months.
Of course, Disney+ will still be the only place to watch movies and shows from its Star Wars and Marvel universes, and Max will still be the exclusive home of HBO’s hit shows like Game of Thrones and The Last of Us w
Even the popular 2000s-era ABC hit Lost, which left Netflix in 2018, is returning next year. Obviously, the consumer wins out – we might not even need the bundles as everything we want could one day end up at Netflix.
Strikes are over, work begins
On the other hand, 2024 might be the year when we’re going to be hit with a lot of content. That’s because the Hollywood strikes that have crippled the entertainment industry for months are finally over, and at least Netflix has a pile of free cash amassed from saving $1 billion on content spending.
The vast majority of film and TV sets were shut down in 2023 – this means that the companies have definitely kept cash in their treasuries that would normally be funding those productions.
“And with Wall Street analyst firm MoffettNathanson estimating that total media industry content spend in 2022 was nearly $135 billion, there’s going to be a lot of cash sitting idle,” The Hollywood Reporter pointed out in November.
However, we’ll have to wait a bit. The strikes continued for months and pushed back release dates on many highly anticipated films like Dune: Part Two or Avatar 3 and new seasons of shows such as The White Lotus or Severance.
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