Sifting Through the Streaming Sand

Where is streaming heading in 2023?

Welcome back! Our break is over and we're back with new voices: Hi, I’m Chris and I’ll be taking over writing duties for the Stream Report. As an introduction, I’ll be sharing my takes on what’s been happening in streaming!

In this issue:

  • Rising streaming costs = more subscription juggling

  • Netflix is chasing the wrong solutions

  • Some streamers are hitting it out of the park

  • Some are ready to disrupt everything in 2023

We got what we asked for, but do we really want it?

American cable and satellite companies keep losing subscribers to live TV streamers. So, cord-cutting for the win, right? Not when prices keep going up. DirecTV Stream, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV all raised their monthly rates by at least $5 last year. You can’t blame them, though. They have to negotiate with the content companies, and Hollywood always wins. Always.

Still, streaming live TV is cheaper than cable. Yet, getting all the content you want means subscribing to a dozen on-demand streamers — which takes cable-level spending.

Churn is the name of the game

Cord-cutters in the know have always juggled subscriptions to control their streaming budgets. We keep a few annual contracts and only pay for others when they have something worth watching. In my case, the always-streamers are Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Criterion Channel. My sometimes-subs go to HBO Max, Netflix, Paramount+, and Apple TV+.

Now, subscription juggling is going mainstream. Streamers lose 6% of their subscriber base every month—twice the rate of 2019’s losses. This subscriber churn has always affected streaming services. Except for one. But now, even Netflix suffers from the churning.

Netflix has gone stale

Rising churn as US subscriber growth stalls isn’t great. Netflix’s response to this is to insert ads and crack down on password sharing, which hasn’t gone over well with the public. Wall Street might be happy, but it won’t solve Netflix’s woes. After all, canceling a Netflix subscription can pay for two subs elsewhere.

What would turn things around? For beginners, make quality content easy to find. Right now, the good stuff is drowning in a sea of mediocrity. Fixing the algorithm and producing more quality entertainment gives people a reason to stay. That’s a long-term solution, though, and Netflix needs a quick fix. The service recently dropped its subscription prices in 30+ countries, which is certainly the quickest fix possible, but, of course, the US wasn’t included in that lineup.

What Netflix must do, and you’ll hate me for this, is to stop letting us binge new releases. As a juggler, HBO Max gets three months from me so I can watch The Last of Us every Sunday night, while Netflix will get one month when I binge The Witcher’s third season. It’s simple math and an easy change.

Who’s doing it right in 2023?

Two on-demand streamers show how to do things right: Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Disney+ was always going to be a contender because the way it manages IP puts others to shame. They get constant buzz about their latest originals, even attracting people who wouldn’t be that into Disney itself.

The Apple TV+ catalog isn’t as deep as its competitors, but what it produces is top-shelf. Plus, 3-month free trials with Apple product purchases and Apple services bundles give the streamer a ready-to-pay audience (a billion pockets y’all).

Look out for these wildcards

Two companies could make things interesting this year: Amazon Prime Video and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Look for big things from Amazon Prime Video. The house that Jeff built is doing better at franchise building than Netflix. And buying MGM has made Prime’s catalog more interesting — even if it feels like an early 90s Blockbuster Video. Since everyone has a Prime subscription anyway, Amazon’s positioned to be the dominant on-demand streamer.

The big question is whether Warner Bros. Discovery screws things up. Last year wasn’t promising between writing off productions, shifting content from HBO Max to ad-supported streamers, and the U-turn on merging apps. Warner and Discovery have the IP to drive subscriber growth., but do they know what they’re doing?

Our takeaway: Netflix needs to step up its game

Netflix is in a tight spot. Since a new content strategy will take at least a year to produce results, I think they’ll start losing subscribers to fresh alternatives like Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video. That will free household streaming budgets to add affordable niche players like Apple TV+ to the rotation. If I’m right, Netflix will have to give us better features to justify its premium pricing.

Give us your thoughts

What do you think will be 2023’s top streaming trend?

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The Watchlist

Pedro Pascal continues his current run as America’s Favorite Dad with episode 1 of The Mandalorian S3 currently available on Disney+ now.

Want to get your sports news quickly and without all the extra fluff? Check out The Gist, a women-led sports newsletter that's full of straight-to-the-point content and is ALWAYS free.*

Just before the Oscars, Best Picture nominee Triangle of Sadness comes to Hulu this Friday, March 3rd.

Check out the teaser trailer for Skye Hoshi: Anime Girl from indie streaming service Pure Magic Pictures. The film hits the streamer on Friday, April 21st.

Amazon Prime Video is bringing all the rock-and-rolling you need, with Daisy Jones & The Six premiering this Friday, March 3rd.

40 years after the original film’s release, Hulu is blessing us (or cursing us 👀) with History of the World Part II, the series, dropping on Monday, March 6th.

The famed detective Perry Mason is back in season 2 airing on HBO Max, Monday, March 6th.

*Indicates sponsored link.

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