Netflix in the US gathered just a dreary 177,000 new customers in the quarter just gone, a sign it’s beginning to run out of pandemic-fuelled steam.
With people the world over stuck at home with naught else to do but binge-watch screens until their eyeballs hurt, streaming services have been one of the commercial success stories of the pandemic.
But could it be the final sprint before the hurdles begin?
University of Victoria senior screen media Marc C-Scott believes so.
He’s been saying for months that the Australian – let alone the global – streaming platform is way oversaturated.
“Sooner or later,” Dr C-Scott has been telling The New Daily, time after time.
On Thursday, we saw the first fall.
You might have blinked and missed the appearance of Quibi, a platform designed to be consumed in “bite-sized pieces” on mobile devices.
Specifically targeted with commuters in mind, it folded six months after its launch date.
I never found out what #Quibi actually was.
— scarissa (@sarah_seven) October 22, 2020
It had $2.4 billion in backing, but that didn’t stop its bosses from turning on it quicker than you can try to pronounce Quibi. (That’s KWHI-BEE, by the way.)
- Related: Australian content quota overhaul
“Quibi is not succeeding,” co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman said in a joint statement.
They said its failure was either the timing (no one was moving, let alone commuting during the pandemic) or that “the idea itself wasn’t strong enough”.
Only the strong survive
Some 15.74 million Australians have a streaming service subscription, according to Roy Morgan, and many of us are signed up to more than one.
But there’s so many to choose from.
The clever folks over at LifeHacker did the maths on how much it would cost you to sign up to every single service.
If you went with the big five (that’s Netflix, Stan, Disney+, Binge and Amazon Prime) it would cost $47 a month minimum.
But if you want to get your eyes on everything available – including the niche services and Foxtel – look to shell out $245.89 a month.
It’s a bit.
As Dr C-Scott pointed out, each service is moving further away from generic content and focusing more on its originals.
Meaning, if you want to watch Emily in Paris, you’ve gotta get Netflix.
Season two of The Mandalorian unmissable? Welcome to Disney+.
From here on, the cry “content is King” has never been truer.
Here’s how the top five streaming services in Australia stack up.
Netflix has been sitting pretty at the top of the pile for some time.
It holds the lion’s share of Australia’s subscriber base, and is a household name.
They don’t call it ‘Netflix and chill’ for nothing.
“I think they’ve always pushed out original content, which all the other platforms have, but they seem to do it much better than others,” said Dr C-Scott, adding the platform has hooked into our true crime obsession flawlessly.
“I guarantee that their data would be pushing, where they’re going with their programming.
“So they have a very clear idea of who’s watching, what what sort of genre it fits into, and when they’re engaging with it.”
It’s also advanced in technology. We’ve seen it trial interactivity in Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, and that’s the kind of advancements that ensure it is not going anywhere, Dr C-Scott said.
Base cost: $10.99 a month
The Australian-owned service hasn’t had the best year.
It lost its Disney content when Disney+ launched and its Showtime exclusives are set to disappear before the calendar flicks over to 2021.
“It just keeps on hitting so many brick walls,” Dr C-Scott said.
Owned by Nine, Stan earlier this year announced its commitment to Australian content by pledging to make 30 Stan Originals over the next five years.
This has great potential for Australia’s creative industry – the content can then be distributed to global platforms, beaming Aussie accents to the world.
But with the pandemic presenting production hurdles, it’s easier said than done.
“Its biggest issue is its reliance on global distributors for content,” Dr C-Scott said.
“And that’s the way that Netflix started, but it’s been able to now really present itself as a production company and create its own original content.”
Base cost: $10 a month
Disney burst onto the scene almost 12 months ago with almost 100 years of brand recognition behind it.
This was its firmest leg up, Dr C-Scott said. From there, it’s been shaky.
Early on, critics pondered if it had enough content and draw to keep parents paying just so their kids could watch the Lion King on repeat.
Then last month, it trialled billing its subscribers to watch a premiere movie: Mulan.
At $30 a pop – plus the sub fee – it wasn’t a smart move, Dr C-Scott said.
He would’ve preferred to see them trial an ongoing premium movie service, but they’d need the back catalogue to do that.
Base cost: $8.99
Is it an online shopping portal? Is it a Jeff Bezos fan club? Or is it a streaming service?
Amazon Prime’s identity crisis is part of the reason Dr C-Scott believes Prime has been slow to catch on in Australia.
But as it too moves more into originals, it’s starting to find some momentum.
Base cost: $6.99
Foxtel’s long-awaited foray into the SVOD game (streaming video on demand) comes in the form of Binge, which smartly draws on the company’s back catalogues of HBO classics.
Nothing gets you through a pandemic quite like seasons 1 to 6 of The Sopranos and a weighted blanket.
Binge is only new on the scene and it’s tricky to tell just how many subs it’s garnered, as it’s still riding the free trial wave.
“I think there is a want and a need to watch those other programs and we’re willing to consume it,” Dr C-Scott said, asked if he thought Binge would fizzle out once we’ had rewatched all our favourites.
Binge is also being clever in adding new content – especially a host of programs that just swept the Academy Awards – giving it two bites at the apple.
“They’re just trialling a few things to see what works for them,” Dr C-Scott said.
Base cost: $10 a month