We're about to enter a new phase of "Peak TV": Peak Streaming. I hear friends complain that this is what happens when we stopped paying for cable, decrying that we had to spend so much on channels we wouldn't watch. Now? We're on the verge of spending as much every month to subscribe to all the new streaming services as we would to have a cable subscription (Heaven help those who are doing both!). In fact, it was this very subject that was discussed in our countdown of the Top 25 major "influencers" that would impact 2019 (which you can check out for yourselves here).
But cord-cutters aren't the real problem: it's the stock market and stock prices that are really driving this explosion of streaming services. More on that in a second – but first? Let's talk about where we are…
Streaming has given us so much over the past few years: Stranger Things, Daredevil, The Handmaid's Tale, Good Omens, Star Trek:Discovery – and that's not even including the hours we've binged our favorite shows of yesteryear. How many new favorites have we made, like the simple joys of The Great British Baking Show? Or waiting for the entire season of Supernatural to come out to watch it all at once? It's pretty great.
And that "greatness" has led to where we are now. As more and more people subscribe to Netflix, the more their stock price has increased (What better way to prove profitability to investors than to say, "This is how many people are giving us $12.99 / month"?).
Forget for a moment Netflix's recent stock drops and look at the overall growth from just 3-4 years ago. Their stock price rose so high that Netflix (at least on Wall Street) began May 24, 2018, worth more than Disney.
Think about that for one second. Disney owns a century of intellectual property. It has movie studios, a TV network, dozens of cable channels, theme parks. It has "Disney Princesses," Mickey, Goofy, and Donald. It has Marvel, Star Wars, and now Fox. It feels as if Disney either owns or is in the business of owning everything.
So on what planet does it make sense that Netflix has a higher valuation than Disney? Or is even in the same league? Even for just a day?
It's only natural then that every major media company would try to replicate that success – with lots of "Why don't we have our own Netflix?" and "Why are we licensing x, y, z to Netflix instead of getting people watching it on our own service?" being heard in corporate boardrooms and in online meetings around the world.
From a business perspective, it was inevitable that soon we would get CBS All Access (who had always been the odd one out as CBS was the only network who didn't join Hulu) and Disney+ and NBC Universal's streaming service and HBO Max…
The results haven't been bad. As DC fans, we've been wowed with new episodes of Young Justice as well as Titans and Doom Patrol. Star Trek: Discovery is (dare I say) the best first two seasons of any Trek series ever (if you're being honest, you know they're often known for their uneven first few seasons) and Picard looks amazing. Amazon has killed it with both Good Omens and The Boys this summer. Disney+ plans for Star Wars and Marvel make it almost a required subscription for geeks. Rather than Fox cancelling another great show before its time, they're moving The Orville to Hulu, where it sits alongside groundbreaking shows like The Handmaid's Tale, Ramy, and Shrill.
So what's to complain about? Well, for those of us who aren't independently wealthy (maybe some folks own a lot of Netflix stock?), we can't spend $7 – $15 per month times six… seven… eight… streaming services. No doubt, this will result in a new round of online piracy, as consumers will choose to pay for one or two services and "borrow" the rest. If media corporations aren't willing to learn from past mistakes and continue turning streaming into "Cable v2.0," then consumers are going to be forced to – whether it's an increase in "watch parties" or other efforts we won't officially condone here. Sharing is caring, folks…
Change is inevitable, folks – so better brace yourselves for it – but let's stop finger-pointing at one-another.
Blame stock prices, Capitalism, and the giant creative destruction that tends to accompany technological change.