The emergence of several new streaming services is bad news for Netflix, Stan and other incumbent streaming platforms. And as traditional TV networks slowly get their ducks in a row, we might be at the beginning of the end of having one streaming powerhouse that delivers most of what we want.
A number of significant content agreements with Netflix have come to an end or have changed. We saw Disney do a deal with Stan that delivered a bunch of Marvel, Disney and Star Wars movies to the local streaming service. So what does this mean for Netflix?
New streamers will hammer Netflix
Disney will be launching its streaming service, Disney+, later this year and a bunch of content will start to leave other services that have licensed movies and TV shows from the House of Mouse.
With Disney now owning the largest library of content in the world through a series of deals and acquisitions, the company has put together all the building blocks it needs to launch a massive streaming service. That service, Disney+, now has a release date and we have some idea about pricing and available content. Here's everything we know.
Disney's market power will be significant. It owns the Marvel and Star Wars franchises as well as decades of its own cartoons, TV shows and movies. Then there's the latest swathe of live-action/CGI remakes of its classic animations, all of which have proved hugely popular.
Throw in its recent acquisition of Fox and you can see why Netflix will be concerned. It now has a direct rival with deep pockets, control over a massive slab of popular, existing content and the production capability to produce whatever the heck it wants - including original shows based on the aforementioned franchises.
Oh, and Disney+ is going to cost around half as much as Netflix, based on the announced US pricing. An annual subscription is expected to cost around $100 here. (Depending on the plan you choose, Netflix can currently set you back up to $216 per year.)
The CW which produces series such as Riverdale, The Flash and the classic Buffy and Angel series, has a content deal with Netflix but that will be ending later this year with no plans for renewal. That's more content that will disappear from Netflix's catalogue.
DC Universe launches in the US earlier this year and that means movies and TV shows coming from that studio will cease to be licensed to rival services as it expands it global footprint.
Old TV is also a major threat
It's interesting to note that old school TV stations are also catching up to Netflix. One of our favourite shows, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is on Netflix but lags behind SBS. So, while Netflix is handy to watch old episode, we've turned to the SBS streaming service for the show's recent output.
Ten recently launched its streaming service, 10 All Access and while it's still very new, it's a sign of what is to come as premium content shifts away from the current streaming services. Ten's advantage is that it's owned by the American network CBS so it gets access to content from that network as well what is aired locally.
Locally, the ABC and SBS have both done extremely well with their services, often airing content, such as Doctor Who, through their apps before airing them on TV.
A different version of cable TV
When cable TV arrived in Australia the promise was ad-free TV. And, for a while, we had that until the owners of Foxtel and Optus Vision realised that subscriptions weren't going to be as profitable as they had hoped.
For subscribers, the packages we were offered sucked. To get the one or two channels we really wanted, we ended up subscribing to a stack of stuff we didn't need.
The beauty of the streaming video on demand world is that, unless we spring for annual subscriptions (I have one for Amazon Prime, for example) we can cherry pick which services we have access to.
For example, you can subscribe to Netflix for three or four months to get the latest episodes of Star Trek: Discovery as they're streamed and then suspend your account for the rest of the year. Or once you've binged the latest series of Bloom from Stan, you can stop that until the next series arrives.
Similarly, if you're an AFL or NRL fan, you can subscribe to Kayo for the season and then stop your account till the next season starts.
The benefit is that you can pay for what you want, when you want it. But the downside is you need to keep tabs on things and manage accounts closely to save your money.
But even if you keep them all active, things are less expensive than the old cable model, where a full package cost upwards of $150 a month. And you get to choose the "stations" you want.
What will this look like in 2025?
Making predictions is challenging but my feeling is that Netflix is losing its sheen. Many of my friends (and I know this isn't a statistically valid sample) are hanging on to Netflix for just one or two things they like. If those move to other services, they'll likely follow their favourite shows.
The consumer's loyalty is to the content, not the delivery mechanism.
Netflix's main play is its exclusive programming - but most people would agree that the quality of its original IP is very hit-and-miss. For every Stranger Things and House Of Cards there are a stack of Chelseas and Insatiables. For the most part, the stuff Netflix produces is somewhere in the middle; watchable rather than "cannot miss".
Once Disney+ launches here, probably in early 2020, loyal fans of the MCU, Star Wars and Disney franchises will shift their allegiance. At first, they'll probably have both services but over time, they'll drop the one they watch the least.
Stan and Netflix will probably struggle to retain subscribers if, and this is a big if, the local TV stations get their act together and stream their content in a convenient and timely way. They have the money to license content (well, whatever is left now that Disney owns such a massive tranche of the world's media).
So, the market will see Disney+ as the world's most subscribed service, with Netflix, Stan and the TV stations that get their act together fighting over the scraps.