Consumers got what they wanted when streaming video let them cut the cord. Unfortunately, greater choice has a downside. The proliferation of subscription streaming services, each with their own original content, is giving consumers subscription fatigue. The only solution could be a new generation of companies that, like cable before them, aggregate content providers into a single service.
Subscription Fatigue is a Thing
In a field dominated by Netflix and Amazon, major players are vying for their own share of our entertainment budgets. Disney, Apple, AT&T, WarnerMedia and other media giants have launched or will launch new entrants in a field of more than 200 streaming services.
At the same time, existing players like Netflix and DirecTV Now have been raising their prices. Even low-cost leader Philo has started de-emphasizing its cheapest plan in order to make more money.
With so many choices already out there, market research firms LEK Consulting, Magid and Deloitte report that most people already subscribe to three or four streaming video services. Most respondents to LEK’s survey had the right number of subscriptions to meet their TV-watching needs, but a full 24% already complain of subscription fatigue.
It’s Only Going To Get Worse
It won’t be long before the number of people complaining of subscription fatigue gets even larger as even more content becomes available. Last year, The Hollywood Reporter published the FX Network’s annual research on scripted television. The industry had produced a record-breaking 495 original TV shows in 2018. A third of those shows were produced for the broadcast networks, but even more — a full 160 of them — were produced by streaming services.
Those numbers are only going to go up as more streaming services launch. When Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled Apple TV+, a host of A-list celebrities joined him on the stage. Steven Spielberg, Jason Momoa, Oprah Winfrey and other superstars have all signed up to create original content for Apple TV+.
And then there’s Disney and its upcoming Disney+ subscription service. Within a few months, dozens of new shows will arrive based on Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic, The Muppets as well as Disney’s traditional properties.
Plus there are all of the other streaming services. From CBS All Access to DC Universe to WarnerMedia, the amount of original content will continue to explode. Subscription fatigue is only going to get worse.
The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss
With so much content locked behind so many different paywalls, subscription fatigue will eventually hit a tipping point. As painful as it was to deal with the cable companies, at least you could get all the channels. In this new à-la-carte age, nobody can afford to watch everything.
Some in the entertainment industry envision a future where aggregation companies will give consumers a one-stop-shop for streaming services. They could pay a single monthly payment and get all the content and features like on-demand streaming, a TV streaming guide, and downloadable content, without the hassles of dealing with separate companies. A survey by LEK Consulting found that two-thirds of respondents were interested in streaming aggregators.
You can already see hints of this future in the way Amazon Channels lets you manage subscriptions through Amazon Prime. Many smart TVs are seamlessly surfacing content from your various streaming apps.
Should aggregation services become a thing, they won’t be cheap. Disney, Netflix and all the other content producers will expect their $9.99 per month. That’s bad news for families since covering everyone’s interests could easily cost a couple hundred dollars a month.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before: it was called cable.
There’s a very real chance that the industry will come circle. Streaming aggregators, the new generation of pay TV providers, will offer a solution to subscription fatigue that many consumers will find hard to resist. Paying one subscription, even if it’s expensive and gives you content you don’t want, will be better than juggling dozens of separate subscriptions.