Streaming viewing eclipses cable for the first time; which services will survive the “streaming wars?”

Man watching streaming service on TV

Last updated on March 25th, 2023

Recent streaming service news hasn’t been the most positive. The two most expensive on-demand streaming services, Netflix and HBO Max, are both having problems. Netflix is facing multiple problems (some avoidable, others not), and hasn’t handled them well.

Meanwhile, HBO Max’s new owners (via the Warner Bros./Discovery merger) are undermining what made the service appealing, with bizarre, penny-pinching decisions and a clear preference for cheap reality shows. Warner Bros.’ new owners also seem to mainly view HBO Max as A) a simulcast of HBO-proper (i.e., “The Sopranos”/”Game of Thrones,” not the niche/esoteric Max Originals), with a few DC Comics/Cartoon Network shows tacked on, and B) for adults, not for children/all ages; cue a gutting of HBO Max’s animation side, as well as “Sesame Street.”

Still, there’s some positive streaming service news: Nielsen reports that for the first time (in July 2022), streaming services had more viewers than cable TV networks. Streaming accounted for 34.8% of all TV viewing, narrowly eclipsing cable’s 34.4%. The exact statistics are outlined below.

Infographic: Streaming Surpasses Cable Viewing for the First Time in the U.S. | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

The future of streaming services?

I note the above figures are for July, which is a major lull in TV programming. Traditional broadcast TV airs reruns (or summer replacement shows); meanwhile, sports in July consist of baseball, soccer, and not much else. These numbers might look different come September (the return of football, etc.), but it doesn’t change that streaming has replaced cable for many people.

Of interest is that while Netflix is still the single biggest service, the “Others” category has the biggest share. “Others” would include everything from Paramount+ and Peacock to niche services like Shudder or Boomerang.

YouTube’s popularity isn’t surprising, as the de facto video streaming service.

Hulu coming in third is a bit of a surprise. I assume its numbers for August will look more impressive, with the popularity of “Predator” prequel “Prey.”

Also surprising is that Prime Video eclipsed both Disney+ and HBO Max. Again, the latter two’s numbers could change: new Marvel/”Star Wars” shows are being added to Disney+, while HBO Max (its self-imploding aside) is airing a “Game of Thrones” prequel.

What services will survive the “streaming wars?”

Streaming services on Apple TV
“HBO Now Apple TV” by Harrison Weber is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

The numbers also might be a sign of which services will survive the “streaming wars.” In my opinion, the traditional “Big Three” services (Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu) are the three that’ll definitely stick around in some form, or at least Netflix and Prime Video. Whether or not Hulu survives as a stand-alone service or gets folded into Disney+ (similar to the Star category of Disney+ outside the US) is debatable; to me, there’s arguments in favor of either path.

HBO Max (or whatever its new version next year is called) will also stick around. Even if it’s becoming a shadow of its former self, the service will still have HBO’s shows/Warner’s catalog.

Out of the “Others” category, I see Apple TV+ and Paramount+ surviving. Apple TV+ is, like Prime Video, just a side arm of a bigger company, and Apple’s one of the world’s wealthiest companies.

Paramount+, meanwhile, seems to be quietly chugging along in the background, while Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+ grab all the headlines. Among the advantages of the service: Paramount+ has the studio’s major franchises to rely on (Nickelodeon, “Star Trek”); it’s inexpensive; offers sports (and live streaming of local CBS stations); and the service has been around for a long time, pre-dating the “streaming wars” (it launched as “CBS All Access” in 2014). Recently, Paramount+ made a deal to be offered for free to subscribers of Walmart’s own Amazon Prime-like service, Walmart+.

As for services going under, I can see Peacock’s future as questionable, even with the strength of Comcast behind it. Other services likely either stay niche (Shudder, Boomerang), shut down, or merge with something else (Discovery+).

Photo by Mohamed Hassan. (Pixabay)

Anthony Dean

Anthony Dean is the owner of Diverse Tech Geek and Diverse Media Notes.

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