TV: Netflix battles to keep your attention
Netflix is the biggest subscription service on the planet, said Sahil Patel in Digiday.com, “but even the Death Star had vulnerabilities.” Disney, AT&T, and Apple are each introducing rival streaming channels this year, and Amazon’s and Hulu’s own services keep growing. Netflix has “a massive head start”—it just posted its strongest first quarter ever, adding 9.6 million subscribers to grow to 148.9 million in total. But “Netflix’s costs continue to escalate as the company aggressively spends more and more on original content.” Its long-term debt now stands at $10.3 billion, up from $6.5 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
All these streaming services springing up might sound like “Netflix killers,” said Todd Spangler in Variety. But they’ll just “spur more people to cut the cord—canceling their pricey cable or satellite TV.” That means a bigger pool of customers for streaming services to snap up. And Netflix, with blockbuster original programming, like Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black, is in the best position to take advantage of that. Already the “top 10 most-watched shows on the service are ‘Netflix original brands.’” Netflix is also growing internationally at a strong pace, said Elizabeth Winkler in The Wall Street Journal. More than 80 percent of its new subscribers in the first quarter are overseas.
Still, “Disney+ will be tough to beat,” said David Sims in TheAtlantic.com. The new streaming channel “will now serve as the home for all the studio’s films (about 500 titles), and its catalog will only grow.” For families, all those animated pictures and Disney shows “could easily be worth the monthly cost.” Disney is also the majority owner of Hulu, said Edmund Lee in The New York Times, which could be Netflix’s most formidable rival. Why? Unlike Netflix, Hulu offers a $6 monthly streaming service that comes with ads. “Last year, Hulu took in more than $1.5 billion in advertising, a 45 percent jump.” Disney expects Hulu to finally turn a profit by 2023, whereas Netflix’s expensive appetite for content means more money will be “going out the door than coming in” for a long time to come.
There used to be two options for streaming: Netflix and Hulu, said Raymond Wong in Mashable.com. Now there are no fewer than a dozen. The “great unbundling” that everyone welcomed is just draining “more money through recurring subscription fees from multiple streaming services.” It’s too hard to compare each service, so cord cutters wind up paying for several. I currently fork over $63 a month for Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV, and Amazon Video. And I’ll probably add Disney+ and Apple. I’m burned out, “and I have a strong hunch a lot of other people are, too.” ■