Who’s Winning the Streaming Wars?
‘Streaming Wars’ is a phrase we have all come to know over the past few years. The question is, who is waging the war?
The streaming industry has taken over our smart TV’s, laptops and tablets. It was way back in 2007 when Netflix decided to diversify into online streaming. Since then, we have been graced with a plethora of streaming services, from Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Now TV and so many more. As the marketplace grows, these content providers battle for the top spot with a variety of tactics – diversification, price wars, original content, and attractive partnership programmes. In the background, smaller genre-specific platforms are taking hold of lucrative and fiercely loyal markets. As a result, the modern content consumer is often presented with more choice than they know what to do with.
With so many subscription services on offer in 2021, it can be difficult to know who to commit to. Here’s a summary of key points when considering any of the big players participating in the streaming wars:
- The ‘original’ streaming service, seasoned in the industry
- Huge selection of blockbuster movies and TV shows
- Estimated 126 original films and series, more than any other streaming service
- The likes of Bridgerton and Cobra Kai bringing in approximately 2.6 billion viewing minutes each!
- Emmy award-winning Netflix originals including Black Mirror, Unorthodox and Making a Murderer
- Plans ranging from $8.99 to $12.99 a month, with no extra costs or contracts
- Downloadable content
- Lots of restricted and region-dependent content
Netflix remains the go-to streaming service for audiences worldwide. The hype behind Netflix has shown no signs of slowing down – with Netflix being many people’s first adventure into the world of subscription video on demand (SVOD) services. Netflix’s huge content catalogue is expanding every day, as well as its subscriber numbers. However, this content comes at a high monthly price point, which has risen significantly over the years.
- Unlimited cloud DVR storage
- More on the expensive side at $64.99/month
- No boxes – this one’s for the cord-cutters
- Access to regional sports networks and local channels
- Much less focus on high-quality originals
- If you’ve used YouTube, navigating YouTube TV will be a breeze
The video-sharing platform that we know and love demonstrates a seamless transition into subscription-based TV streaming, providing a wide selection of live sports and news channels from the likes of ABC, CBS, ESPN and Fox. It’s a great substitute for your traditional cable TV service if you’re happy to pay the high monthly subscription rate for the platform.
- Amazon Prime Instant Video launched in 2011
- First Amazon original series in 2013
- Range of critically acclaimed Prime Video original series, including Golden Globe nominee show The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Fleabag
- Content deals mean UK subscribers can access shows made abroad
- Download option for offline viewing
- Only £5.99 a month for an Amazon Prime Video subscription
- Rental and buying options for online content
- Amazon Fire Stick, Smart TV allows Amazon’s own content to be viewed in HD
- Partnership with additional streaming services such as STARZ, HULU and SHOWTIME
Amazon Prime Video is home to a great selection of original and exclusive content, plus a huge catalog of critically-acclaimed feature films and series. You can also watch in 4K and download content for offline viewing. More recently, Amazon Prime Video has diversified into the sports streaming space with NFL coverage in the US. It’s a bright future ahead for the platform, but the volume of its content remains in its infancy.
- Launched in late 2019
- One of the cheapest options in the market
- You can get a year’s free subscription when you purchase a new Apple product
- Comes with some of the highest specs available, 4K ultra-HD with Dolby Vision high dynamic range and 3C surround sound
- Less of a focus on content, more on a quality viewing experience
Apple TV+ is providing a star-studded streaming experience at a low monthly cost. The platform comes courtesy of one of the biggest tech companies in the world, and it certainly shows with the quality of its original content. Unfortunately, this tunnel-vision focus on original content has left the Apple TV+ content library thin on the ground due to a lack of older films and shows. You will find no licensed third-party content on Apple TV+.
- Entered the market in late 2019
- Exclusive contracts, meaning the platform offers sought after content from Pixar, Star Wars, Marvel and Disney Classics
- Family-centric platform
- £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year
- Downloads available for offline viewing
Disney’s impressive library of content is only getting bigger. As their subscription base skyrockets, expect to see the Disney+ platform grow in both quantity and quality. There’s something for everyone here, but it is of course limited to Disney creations and franchises. As Disney+ expands the scope of its content, we could see it reach the subscription numbers of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
- Available for public internet access in 2008
- Starting price $6 per month, live TV at an additional cost
- Hulu original content available
- Advertisements featured on some content
- Bundles available for sports and entertainment content
- Downloadable content for premium subscribers
For those wanting to move away from traditional TV, Hulu is the perfect all-rounder. The streaming service offers a wide selection of series and films, and are known for their wide access to live TV for an additional cost. However, where Hulu does fall short is their lack of original content and restricted access to 4K, compared to some of the key players in the industry. Hulu is not showing signs of fading into the shadow of its larger competitors however, recently securing 14 Viacom channels to the platform.
- Offers streaming boxes, Roku TVs, soundbar, subwoofer and Roku TV Ready
- Streams in 4K and 4K HDR
- Voice-enabled remote control
- Ability to rearrange and edit home screen
- Roku has double the number of apps compared to Amazon Fire Sticks
Roku offers viewers the ability to view content from a multitude of streaming platforms in one easy-to-use interface. Roku has great coverage and it’s highly likely that you will find the content that you want via the platform. It can be confusing to know which Roku product to purchase, and the inability to download content can be off-putting for some users.
- Award-winning original programming
- Starting price from $15 per month
- No live TV options
- Same day availability on some theatrical releases
- Three devices can stream simultaneously
Retailing at a slightly higher price point than most platforms, HBO Max delivers quality through original programming and exclusivity from various WarnerMedia offshoots. However, the pricing is a big stumbling point for cost-conscious audiences.
- Payment on a monthly ($19.99) or yearly ($99) basis
- Specialises in boxing content, but offers occasional scheduled live sports content
- Offers some original programming including their daily MLB show, Change Up
- More content available for viewers outside of the US, with rights to NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL
DAZN shook up the traditional sports viewing landscape and has become a must-have for sports-hungry fans across the world. The monthly price varies from country to country – but comes in at $19.99 within the US. Depending on the sports that you engage with, this is a great price point for the avid sports fan. There’s a lot of sports-focused original content and documentaries, also.
- Exclusively sports content
- Availability of live and on-demand sports programming
- Subscription at around $5.99 or $59.99 a year
- ESPN+ doesn’t include the core programming of ESPN
- Available via desktop or mobile app
- Doesn’t support offline on-demand viewing
ESPN+ does sports streaming well. It can also be bundled up with Disney+ and Hulu for a sensible monthly price, which appeals to families looking to cut their cords. A sour point for most is the lack of NBA and NFL coverage which is provided by other streaming providers.
Modern-day streaming platforms are championing the increasing quality we are seeing in original streaming content. As production budgets rise, these key players are competing head-on with the traditional film industry. It could be argued that this is making the film industry more accessible and inclusive. However, the barriers to entry for new streaming platforms have risen exponentially. If it’s high-quality original content you’re after, most mass appeal streaming platforms can provide the answer.
When streaming services first emerged, they provided an alternative way of viewing to suit evolving consumer preferences. It was the revolutionary at-home cinema experience where viewers could enjoy traditional live TV content, as well as blockbuster films and indie documentaries. Now, streaming services are blurring the lines with traditional TV offerings. If you’re a live sports, reality TV or Sky fan, you’re likely to find this content on platforms like YouTube TV and Roku.
The success that streaming services enjoy largely depends on the catalog of content they offer consumers. Stealthy partnership programmes from Amazon Prime and Disney+ demonstrate a strategic move where platforms are banding together to provide a larger variety of content for subscribers. After all, the greater the range and depth of content a streaming platform provides, the higher the subscriber count.
Finally, there’s no denying the key players in the industry are rapidly growing. They can now afford to increase monthly prices with little to no effect on subscriber numbers. Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime are kings at attracting mass audience appeal. Of course, for the average subscriber, it can be assumed that there is a lot of material they don’t engage with. For consumers wanting an on-demand experience for their specific interests, there are a variety of cheaper options with a more specific focus. Broadway TV, Screambox and Motor Trend are all examples of niche-specific platforms set up to capture both hardcore and casual fans of genres.
The streaming market is entering a phase of huge continued growth. The larger players definitely have the success to shout about when it comes to their mass audience appeal and astronomical subscriber figures. But it’s important to never underestimate the rise of niche streaming providers. Audiences and consumers of specific niches are likely to be incredibly loyal to their chosen content provider/platform – after all, it’s a genre they care deeply about. We’re excited to see how these platforms expand and grow as the streaming wars heat up further throughout the year.
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