The big merge: streaming giants and the quest for content supremacy

We explore how streaming platforms are challenging traditional models and setting the stage for an epic consolidation showdown that could forever alter how we watch sports, movies, and TV shows.

Over a decade has passed since audiences began questioning the need for a $120-a-month cable subscription to access 150 channels they don't watch. The streaming charge was led by a much cheaper $10-a-month Netflix subscription offering a highly tempting option of à la carte television.

The revolution might not be televised, but cord-cutters quickly voted with their wallets. Predictably, expensive cable and satellite subscriptions began to be replaced by ad-free binge-worthy TV shows such as Breaking Bad.

However, the entertainment industry's obsession with greed quickly reappeared. Fast forward to 2024, and anyone wanting to get the most out of their 4K TV sets is now directed towards Netflix's premium plan at $22.99. Add in a Disney+ subscription to a recently doubled $13.99 and an Apple TV+ package, which has also dramatically increased in price, cord cutting no longer seems to be the affordable deal that viewers initially signed up for.

Even Amazon has moved the goalposts of its Prime Video by increasing the prices and asking its members to pay more to avoid ads. Welcome to the world of "streamflation." When you have added a music streaming subscription for your family, it's easy to see why subscription fatigue is slowly rising and piracy is returning.

Audiences fight back with binge and cancel tactics

All the usual suspects in the entertainment industry, from Warner Bros. to Paramount, began locking their IP behind new subscription platforms. This meant audiences who wanted access to their favorite franchise suddenly needed multiple subscriptions. For audiences, throwing out those DVDs and Blu-rays no longer seemed like such a good idea.

Thankfully, tech-savvy viewers have no intention of returning to a world of paying for things they don't watch or packages they no longer need. Many are now adopting a more tactical approach to viewing their entertainment. This typically involves paying for one of the many steaming services and binge-watching everything they want to watch before canceling and moving on to the next platform to repeat the same process.

Streaming platforms attempted to fight back by removing their original value proposition and preventing users from binge-watching new seasons. The U-turn to the old way of releasing episodes weekly still needed to hit the mark. By carefully timing their subscription sign-ups to the release dates of new seasons, viewers could get everything they wanted to watch viewed in 1-2 months rather than sticking around for a year.

Consolidation and the quest for diverse revenue streams

Finding value in a heavily crowded streaming market is becoming increasingly complex for customers, and only some people will find paying for a platform to bombard them with ads a good idea. The recent price hikes will inevitably cause many to continue purging their monthly subscriptions. But in the same way that TV networks faced consolidation in the past, history is about to repeat itself as mergers and acquisitions in this space begin to gather pace.

Last year, the Walt Disney Company acquired Hulu for a whopping $8.6 billion, followed by a promise of a new "one-app experience" on the horizon. But later this year, Disney's ESPN, the Fox Corporation, and Warner Bros. will launch a new sports streaming service as diversifying revenue becomes a priority for streaming platforms.

The future unnamed service will be due in the fall, and the aim is to end the fragmented sports streaming market by bringing the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and even the FIFA World Cup under one umbrella for North American sports fans. Although there aren't many details at the moment, sports fans will hope that the 3-studio sports offering might finally replace multiple apps and cable packages to watch their favorite teams with a Netflix-style hub for sports.

There is also increasing speculation that Paramount Global is open to doing a deal with heavily rumored links with Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCUniversal. More recently, the consolidation of Reliance's Indian media holdings, alongside its Viacom18 portfolio and Disney, will forge a conglomerate that dominates 85% of India's streaming service market and secures approximately 50% of the television viewership. But it's the securing of rights to stream cricket that has effectively prevented rival companies from being able to offer anything that competes with the platform.

Elsewhere, Netflix entered the Ring by announcing it would be streaming a live fight between Mike Tyson and Jake Paul. This comes just a few weeks after signing a 10-year deal with WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) for a cool $5 billion. These strategic moves aim to elevate Netflix's presence in sports broadcasting.

As streaming platforms begin to fight over sporting deals, all eyes will be on other sports leagues, especially with Premier League games, where Amazon has already screened a selection of games.

Will sports franchises be the final blow to cable and satellite TV?

With Sports franchises following popular TV shows and movies to streaming platforms, it could be the final nail in the coffin for cable and satellite companies. Sky has relied heavily on its flagship Sky Sports channels in the UK to boost its profits. But with sport becoming an attractive target, the media giant's marketing campaigns seem to feel more focused on locking users into renting Sky Glass TVs, mobile contracts, and smartphones than media packages.

An entertainment landscape consisting of multiple streaming subscriptions and a traditional cable package to watch your favorite TV shows, movies, and sports is not sustainable. This is one of the many reasons why the market is ripe for consolidation and why your favorite streaming service needs to evolve and offer more than just traditional entertainment to keep you subscribed.

Whether one of the tech giants will be brave enough to swoop in and acquire Netflix is a subject for another day. So grab your popcorn and prepare for things to get interesting.

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