The oversaturation of streaming services

Nicholas Benjamin , Staff Writer

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a movie online that a teacher was talking about. We needed to watch it for an assignment given over the weekend, so I figured that I could watch it on Netflix. However, I looked up the movie, and saw that it was only available on HBOMax, one of the many new streaming services lately. 

Around the same time, I began seeing ads for another new streaming service – Discovery Plus — a collection of shows from channels like the Discovery Channel, HGTV, and the Food Network. I wasn’t sure who would pay for that, but okay. Finally, during the Superbowl, I see a series of ads for Paramount Plus, bringing together everyone’s favorite Paramount properties. 

So the question I’m here to ask is . . . why? Why do so many companies decide to take their properties off of bigger services like Netflix and Hulu in order to make their own, risky platforms? Let’s discuss. 

First, let us lay down the breadth of how many subscription services there really are for types of media. In terms of movies and television, there’s the tried and true Netflix and Hulu, as well as many others that have tried to parrot the success of those services like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBOMax, Starz, Showtime, fuboTV, tubiTV, Peacock, Quibi, Discovery Plus, and Paramount Plus. [NOTE: Many would consider Hulu to be a copy of Netflix, which in some respects, it is, but Hulu has always been oriented toward providing more TV shows than movies. For the purposes of this article, it will be grouped with Netflix as one of the original streaming services, before the market became overrun with them in recent years.] While movie and television based services are the most abundant, there are also subscriptions like Audible for audiobooks, and Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch Online for video games. 

Of the sixteen aforementioned services, eleven of them were released after 2010, and eight were released in the last five years. This is because many companies have seen the success that the original streaming service, Netflix, has received in recent years. Since it began offering streaming in 2007, Netflix has seen a 2,500% growth in its revenue. According to macrotrends.net, revenue has increased by between three and five billion dollars per year for the company since 2016, with the service pulling in nearly twenty-five billion dollars in revenue during 2020. 

Naturally, other companies saw this growth, and wanted a piece of the action. Many began to pull their Intellectual Property off of Netflix or Hulu, and decided to form their own streaming service. These companies seem to think that many people will be willing to pay for their subscription services in order to see the content that they offer. However, they seem to overlook one thing — by taking their content off of Netflix or Hulu and making their own service, these companies are devaluing every streaming service. In previous years, people could pay a low subscription fee for a wide variety of content on Netflix, but now they will have to pay for several services to get the same amount of material.

More than likely, audiences will be uninterested in subscribing to another service just to watch one or two shows they enjoy; these new services will fall by the wayside. In fact, one streaming service that was created in the past year is already shutting its doors: Quibi. Quibi advertised itself as a streaming service designed exclusively for phones, filming all of its own exclusive content. This, of course, meant that it had no pre-existing properties to capitalize on other people’s nostalgia, like other media corporations creating streaming services. It was created by Jeffery Katzenburg, known for his work in founding the animation studio Dreamworks. Despite this, the general lack of interest in the content being offered on Quibi led to the platform being dissolved a little less than eight months after it was launched, being marked as a commercial failure in the eyes of the media.
The story surrounding Quibi and its downfall serves as a dark reminder to any company wishing to start a streaming service that they really need to sell themselves to the public in order to keep the platform afloat. One might say that many companies are smarter than Quibi, and that they would only create their own service if they had previously established content to put on it. However, not all companies have content worth devoting their own streaming service too. For example, Discovery Plus is filled with content that many people put on when they don’t have much else to watch. One must wonder if lackluster nostalgic content can keep a streaming service worthwhile? It’s a risky move. 

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Is there anything that you, the person reading this article, can do? The answer is: not likely. It would require the general public to display an extreme lack of interest in a particular streaming service to get a company to make a change. The ideal situation would be to have all content on a handful of streaming platforms, so that one company couldn’t have a monopoly on the entire business. Of course, this is not possible. Many companies now have dollar signs in their eyes. 

So for now, we just have to wait and see what happens in the next few years as new services crop up. For now, what we watch and how we watch it is up to the whim of what these companies want to do with their properties. All we can do now is sit on our couches and consume the media, or not cave in to greedy corporate interests.