The TV-streaming paradox: Why you may miss the cable bundle

0
605
In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person  displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise  Amendola, File)
In this Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, a person displays Netflix on a tablet in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The future of TV may well be a mishmash of streaming

services that could rival the cost of a $100 cable bundle — but that
are way more difficult to use.

Disney’s plan for two new streaming services (and possibly more) is
just the latest sign that everyone is jumping into the streaming
business. It intends to launch a kids-oriented movie and TV streaming
service in 2019 that will pull Disney and Pixar films from Netflix,
as well as an ESPN sidekick service (minus pro football and
basketball) expected early next year. The company is even exploring
the possibility of separate streaming services for its Star Wars and
Marvel superhero films.

All of that will simply add to a cacophony of existing Netflix-style
video services that let you watch what you want, when you want. More
are probably on their way, as entertainment companies see profits in
controlling not only the creation of their films and shows, but also
their distribution.

The downside? Potentially bigger bills, and more work for people who
just want to find something to watch. “Ultimately for consumers, it
means that experience is dreadful,” says Paolo Pescatore, a vice
president with research firm CCS Insight.

PROBLEM ONE: FINDING STUFF TO WATCH

New Yorker David Berkowitz still pays for cable, streams from Netflix
and Amazon, and sometimes buys individual movies from Amazon; his
three-year-old daughter already watches “Finding Dory” and “Finding
Nemo” on two separate services. The prospect of a new Disney-only
service isn’t reassuring. “Having a third thing in the mix seems like
a lot to juggle,” he says.

To find stuff to watch, Berkowitz’s family uses a Roku box attached
to their TV, which suggests streaming channels the family may like
and lets them search for the shows and movies he wants to watch.

There are also websites to guide streamers, like justwatch.com.

That’s fine if you know what you’re looking for. But the modern-day
channel surfer has it much harder. “There’s going to be a
proliferation of niche content,” says Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of
Xumo, a streaming-channel provider for smart TVs. “The way for it to
be managed, findable for a user — that has not emerged yet.”

PROBLEM TWO: PAYING THE PRICE

People quit cable because they can’t justify a $100-and-always-
climbing monthly payment, especially with so much good stuff on
cheaper services. But the cost of multiple streaming services adds
up, too.

A $30 TV antenna gets you local channels — CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, PBS,
Univision — for free, though you have to watch whatever’s on at the
moment unless you have a DVR. If you want to see the edgy shows
everyone talks about, then Netflix is, for most, $10 a month; Amazon
is $8.25 a month if you sign up for a year. Hulu starts at $8. HBO
Now, $15.

Tickled by ads for a specific network show? “The Sinner,” an eerie-
looking new Jessica Biel vehicle on USA, costs $20 on Amazon for the
season. All that together is already more than $60 a month. It’s even
worse if you’re a sports fan. MLB.TV is $113 for the year, and you
won’t get hometeam games .

Berkowitz says he’s curious about the Disney service, especially
since he expects to save money by cutting cable. “For us, if it’s $5
a month it’ll almost be like that impulse buy, go to a store and pick
up a candy bar,” he says.

Disney hasn’t settled on prices yet, saying only it wants an
affordable service that’s broadly appealing. Its DisneyLife streaming
video app in the U.K. launched at 10 pounds a month in November 2015
and now costs half that — about $6.50.

Of course, Disney might still bundle Marvel movies and the Star Wars
franchise into its service, which would help it appeal to a wider
demographic. For kid’s programming, there’s already a lot out there.
Much of it is free.

Darcy Hansen, a communications consultant and stay-at-home mom in the
Dallas suburbs, has two kids under age 5 whose favorite show —
“Sheriff Callie’s Wild West” — is a Disney series on Hulu. But a
Disney app isn’t a must-have for her.

Her kids already watch “all sorts of things” on YouTube and on the
free PBS Kids app, and they have Netflix too, Hansen says. “I don’t
think Disney has a monopoly on children’s programming, in our house
at least.”