Over the last few years, the streaming industry has undergone a violent upheaval. New players are moving aggressively to gain market share from Netflix, while consumers have more choices than ever. By using the past as a prologue, we can make some bold predictions for the coming year.
1. Paramount + will grow more than any other service
Paramount + had a problematic rollout. Originally branded “CBS All Access”, it gained a new identity in March 2021. As is the case with many launches, it was more sizzling than steak. Without blockbuster titles, Paramount + stumbled around while its major film series stood out of cinemas.
But there have been encouraging signs of life. Paramount + may have cracked the code for streaming vs. cinema releases, by choosing a simultaneous release for family films, while they have only put adult films in the cinema. It reduces piracy on the tent titles while extracting the largest possible ticket office.
Paramount + will get a big boost from two Tom Cruise vehicles in 2022: “Top Gun: Maverick” and the next “Mission: Impossible” movie. The service also doubles works from one of its most popular behind-the-scenes talents: “Yellowstone” co-creator Taylor Sheridan. Shows like “Mayor of Kingstown” and “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” seem to be the kind of titles that can create waves. Throw an upcoming Sylvester Stallone mob drama (“Kansas City”, also from Sheridan) and Paramount +’s Mandalorian (Halo), and Paramount + seems to have a winning formula.
The upcoming ViacomCBS budget also looks set to tilt in favor of Paramount +. We have heard nothing about an increased production of adult prices for Showtime, Noggin seems to be on the run in older episodes of Nickelodeon shows, and Pluto TV is essentially a recycled content from elsewhere. Network CBS has established itself on its popular franchise procedure dramas and its assembly line sitcom strategy. With these fields ticked and a new, youth-focused CEO running Paramount +, the unique focus on streaming should pay off.
It may have gotten off to a shaky start, but it has plenty of room to run and enough IP to burn.
2. Disney + Growth will stop domestically
While Disney + has cast its lot with one Star Wars series each year and 3-4 Marvel series, there is almost no innovation elsewhere. Yes, the library is great, but the streaming highlights are few and far between. It’s a recipe for incredibly high churn. Even if you like the Disney properties, there is no need to spend 12 full months subscribing to the service unless you have children who are willing to watch the same titles over and over again.
People who subscribe to Disney + know what they are getting: Disney / Pixar animation, Marvel and Star Wars. The platform offers other content, but these series will hardly serve as primary drivers for subscriptions. If you do not have children or identify with the nerd culture, there is almost nothing new here except for “Hamilton” or the Beatles documentary “Get Back”.
Former CEO Bob Iger agrees with this assessment.
Disney’s final solution to this is to incorporate Hulu, but that’s related to their NBCUniversal entanglement until 2024. The company will try to boost the numbers with various bundle options (including adding it to Hulu + Live TV), but lacks a number of compelling adults skewed content is Disney + as a standalone service by running out of space to run.
Disney plans to spend as much as $ 33 billion on streaming content in FY ’22, but we will not see the full benefit of it in the coming years. Adding more kid-friendly content does not necessarily boost Disney +. The parents who tend to subscribe have already done so. The question then is whether this new content can appeal to young adults, tom-nesters or another new demographic. And if the content lands on Disney + instead of Hulu, Disney simply robs Peter of paying Paul.
While there is plenty of room to run internationally, domestic audiences may have reached their peak unless Disney + discovers a way to entice a new demographic.
3. Peacock Will Go Nowhere
In its latest investor call, Comcast executives did not even bother to share Peacock subscriber numbers. If you are new to the scene, managers are more than willing to go crazy about positive numbers. If they are silent, it is because there is something moderate to extremely negative they are trying to hide.
While Peacock’s launch in 2020 was thrown out due to COVID’s impact on the Tokyo Olympics, 2021 was not much more rosy. The service absorbed the WWE network and it offered a variety of Summer Olympics programming.
But have you ever heard anyone get excited about a Peacock show? While Disney + may hang its hat on “The Mandalorian” or its Marvel shows, and Netflix drops a global sensation like “Tiger King” or “Squid Game” at least once a year, we have yet to see anything similar from Peacock.
The service offers sitcoms from creators known for major hits and reboots of older series, but none of the originals have caught fire nationally or globally. Nobody cares about “The Kids Tonight Show” or “Vanderpump Dogs.” It sounds like the kind of fake NBC shows with low imagination that are ridiculed by “30 Rock”.
Comcast is also compromised, as some of its content ends up on Hulu, thanks to the company’s partial ownership of the platform. While the service will get a boost from the Winter Olympics and the Universal movies that will get an exclusive run on Peacock (instead of HBO Max), these titles will eventually be leased out to other services.
Without must-have originals, unless something changes, Peacock is really only needed for those who want the Premier League, or the necessary die-hards who need to stream “Jurassic World: Dominion” right away.
The flimsy commitment to the platform means that this service will remain on life support until something changes.
4. CNN + will crash and burn
CNN itself is a shell of its former glory. The Jeff Zucker era has favored talking heads over actual journalism. It’s a strategy that works well for FOX News fans who are willing to slur from Fascism’s Tucker Carlson trough, but that area of the media landscape is saturated. Fewer people are willing to pay for a premium streaming service to hear bold bids on how it works power not be wise to hang Mike Pence, or why election officials should actually count the votes they receive.
CNN has gone from “the most trusted name in the news” to a channel where Chris Cuomo gets an absurdly long leash after violating journalistic ethics by advising his scandal-plagued brother. This is where “both sides” means giving equal time to experts who want to work within the system and those who believe that we should give up democracy in order to become a dictatorial kleptocracy ruled by Jared Kushner in armor on top of A cranial throne.
So what will CNN + offer that linear CNN does not? Details are still sparse, but we know it will offer documentary series like Anthony Bourdain’s “Unknown Parts.” We also get a show hosted by former FOX News anchor Chris Wallace. Many speculate that former MSNBC anchor Brian Williams may join the service. But is that enough?
News content is relatively inexpensive to produce, but we have seen that streaming services only thrive when they offer something recognizable or exclusive to entice new viewers.
“More news” will not do that – we can find news everywhere.
“Independent News” will not do that – just ask the beleagured NewsNation how it is going.
“Left wing news” will not do it because it is off-brand and CNN does not have that kind of list.
“Right-wing news” will not do that – only 35% of Republicans trust established journalistic sources, and they already have a fire hose with free content available.
By 2020, with a deadly pandemic raging and a huge subsequent election underway, CNN averaged just 1.8 million viewers in prime time. From 2017-19, that figure was closer to 1 million. So who is the target audience?
For survival purposes, CNN + should bundle itself with any HBO Max Discovery + package that may come out of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. But standalone CNN + subscriptions are likely to be insignificant. We would love to see a pure-play-news-DTC option succeed, but it is unlikely that CNN + will offer what it takes to completely replace all other live news sources.
5. YouTube TV will offer various channel setups like Sling TV
The cost of live streaming is marching steadily upwards, but it feels like we are approaching a limit. The whole point of cutting the cord was to have more choices at a lower price, but all of these duct packages are relentlessly expensive.
Sling TV has the most unique solution, offering two different discount series of channels with the full range available as a third, more expensive choice.
As we reported in October, YouTube TV is apparently considering “flexible” channel options. While that probably won’t mean the return of Bally Sports Networks, there is definitely a more tasty “skinny” bundle of additional channels or levels.
Instead of $ 64.99, there may be a cheaper package that eliminates some of the less watched channels that could be added at an additional cost as add-ons.
After all, YouTube TV came into play with Disney earlier this month. We do not know which side gave in, but it is likely that Disney used its NFL effect to pull out a big prize.
Remember, Disney also owns Hulu Live TV, which recently raised the price to $ 69.99. It would be strange if YouTube TV had a very similar series without having to pay the same price. YouTube TV could eat up the increased content costs for a period of time, but not indefinitely.
Sports fans will always carry a bigger bill, but others may fly to Philo or Sling TV unless YouTube TV offers a compelling sports lite alternative.
Where Sling TV left a mark, other services are likely to follow suit. No one has to pay for Olympic Channel and ESPNews, but all YouTube TV subscribers do. Levels or bundles are the right game here.
So there you have it – five bold predictions that may or may not come true. We will probably be surprised by something in 2022 – either a major merger or a crazy service collapse. Who knows – Bally may finally launch its DTC offering, even though MLB remains on strike. If history has taught us anything, it is that the streaming world is the Wild West. Cowboys come and cowboys go, but there are always shots at noon.