The Walt Disney Company is blazing a trail that I hope many will follow in the near future.
During an earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that by the end of the year, Disney+ and Hulu will merge into one app. This flies in the face of an increasing trend of saturating the streaming market with multiple services and apps.
It seems like every day a new streaming platform is popping up, swatting down the idea of streaming being cheaper than cable or satellite. Streaming was supposed to save us in terms of costs, but with so many options available, it can quickly become more expensive than the old model.
Disney opting to combine Disney+ and Hulu almost seems counterintuitive, but ultimately, I believe it is the right move.
Disney, however, is not the first one to do this. A couple of years ago, Peacock took on the WWE Network, creating a channel with all the content the pro wrestling giant’s service previously offered.
Additionally, Warner Bros. Discovery announced it was merging HBO Max and Discover+ into a new platform called Max.
I say Disney is trailblazing the effort because both Disney+ and Hulu are popular options. As of March 2023, Disney+ and Hulu rank third and eighth, respectively, on the list of most worldwide subscribers.
Sure, Disney owns a big share in Hulu and that made folding the two into one entity easier than others. I get that, but the practice is definitely something others should consider.
World Wrestling Entertainment and NBC Universal worked out a deal that brought WWE content to the streaming service. The deal also allows subscribers to watch all WWE premium live events with only a Peacock subscription. Previously, fans fan would watch the events via the WWE Network.
The NBC Universal-WWE deal shows there is a path forward on this though it will require work especially while entities remain separate.
Streaming Challenges and Roadblocks for Consolidation
At the end of the day, these companies are out to get money and there is a lot of revenue to be had with separate streaming platforms. I could see many companies hesitant to make a deal because they are worried about losing money.
Another point against consolidation is how much competition breeds success. Often, people put out their best work when they know they are competing against another person or entity.
The then-World Wrestling Federation completely revamped programming in 1997 as a means to compete with World Championship Wrestling amid a heated ratings battle. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire pushed, and doped, themselves to new heights amid a home run battle in 1998.
We are arguably in a golden era of TV and a lot of that is because of how much these streaming services are fighting for our attention. That said, there has never been more bad TV out there, but what’s at the top is some of the best TV in decades.
These make is hard for Paramount or Netflix to just make a deal to offer a consolidated platform.
This is where, I think, a third party would do well.
A Potential Solution for Streaming Saturation
I know the old model of TV is fading, but there might be some knowledge we can glean from it. TV providers such as DirecTV, Comcast, Dish, and others offered a wide array of programming in one place.
It always became obvious when DirecTV would feud with a company because you would lose service to that channel. When it was at its best, these providers ensure you had all the TV you needed in one place.
I think a similar approach for streaming could work. Maybe an app that takes the best of each streaming service and puts it in one place. Streamers would have to be judicious about what they share with the provider but it could work.
I don’t pretend to know the answers nor do I think consolidation is the perfect route. I mean, Disney said it would pull content as part of the merger.
What I do know is streaming bills are getting bloated and sooner or later, people will stop streaming. At one point, Netflix was king of the castle, but over time, subscribers have begun to level.
This is clearly a tricky topic to navigate and reflects the ever-increasing reliance on streaming platforms as the main source of entertainment.
I would love to see a shift happen soon. The small combinations indicate that this may start to become the new approach in the future. Or it could be a flash in the pan.
Either way, the shift of TV consumption is fascinating and always interesting to watch.
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