Netflix to the shock of nobody paying attention announced that it will not be pursuing a live TV strategy and instead continue to focus on creating original content and complementing TV services instead of competing directly against them. Netflix has been quietly building an original content lineup to rival any TV production company. We just counted everything listed under Netflix originals. There over 300 selections at this point and that is just counting the titles. Many are full-fledged series with now multiple seasons of content. The only service streaming service that is comparable to Netflix is HBO Now which unlike Netflix is a traditional cable channel with decades of content to work with.
Media wants sports stories.
There is this tendency in the small but growing streaming media world to try and keep score between Amazon, Netflix and Hulu as though they are competing directly against each other or that they are the same types of companies. But they are not. We like apples to apples comparisons. They make easy stories because we can report on them like they are sports. “Netflix VS Hulu Who wins”? ” “Who has the most movies?” Politics has started being covered the same say “Who won the news cycle?” “This election is a heavy weight battle between two big punchers see it all here on (____) this Tuesday.” But just because Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video all offer online streaming video content does not make them the same types of company in the way the McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s are all fast food restaurants that sell burgers salads and chicken sandwiches. What you see with the big streaming companies is three products that look the same on the surface but are really the results of completely different goals. Much like the way a virus, a bacterial infection and simply over eating can make you feel rotten even though they are not caused by or treated by the same things.
Understanding the companies for what they are
The difference between Netflix’s approach to the live streaming game and the way that Hulu and Amazon have approached it is stark but makes a great deal of sense when you think about the major differences between the companies. Hulu is owned by traditional media companies like News Corp, Disney and Comcast. The fact that Hulu is now looking to launch a live TV service makes perfect sense. A great number of its content partners are already built in to the works. Hulu has also been breaking off partnerships with unrelated companies like CBS’s the CW and dropping its distribution partnership with Viacom. When it comes to first run content Hulu wants to be a first run TV service both on replay and live. While Netflix banks on people using the service as a way to catch up with content when it is not prime TV watching time or even use the service to dive into a show they have always meant to watch but never got around to it.
Amazon is also a totally different animal than Netflix. Netflix is just one thing. It is a streaming company that also ships DVD’s for rent. Amazon is a store that offers streaming as a digital bonus for customers using a loyalty system not too different from one of those little plastic cards on your key chain. Amazon did not start as a way to build prime video, It was an online book store selling paper books like Abe books. Prime video started as part of a massive portfolio included as a bonus with a program that includes free shipping on products ordered from Amazon’s website, discounts on electronic books, music services, cloud storage and more. As far as products go Amazon even has its very own branded box built around its content, an option Netflix opted against which led to the development of the first Roku. Its new partnership with the NFL is a sweetener to a service, not the basis of it. That being said I think Amazon is up to something much bigger, which we are going to be covering in an upcoming story.
In the end it’s all about understanding what you are and what you are not. The companies that lose their way and invest in too many unrelated products and services can really suffer in prestige by offering up a failed product. Google almost ruined its chances to market a smart TV interface with the failure of Google TV as a platform. Right now Netflix is a destination place for origional streaming content and the ability to binge series both origional and through partners commercial free at the user’s leisure is its major selling point. And I think it plans to stay that way. There are so many people who say, I’m to busy to keep up with (_________). I’m going to wait till I can just watch it all on Netflix. This is why Netflix and the CW put together the deal that will allow Netflix to stream the networks shows only weeks after they wrap up their runs on TV. Netflix uses viewer data directly to figure out what content its subscribers like and what they will watch through direct interaction and then delivers it. This is why it launched “Fuller House”. It has become an institution as evidenced by the fact that it is crossing the 100 million subscriber count. By comparison Hulu nearly tripled its subscribers in the past year and has close to 10 million.
At the end of the day Hulu is an Internet channel owned by TV Networks and a very important distinction is that Hulu is only available in the US. Amazon Video is a product on a virtual shelf of the biggest online store in the US and Netflix is a streaming service that sees itself as an inexpensive premium network based on the Internet instead of the traditional delivery systems of the cable and satellite world.
Going forward you should expect Amazon to continue offering options more like new products. Maybe they will come up with a way to offer local network affiliates at a low cost. If the NFL turns out to be a big success for them maybe it will put together other sports related offers like UFC event streaming or packaging up internet sports options into a bundle for the NBA and MLB. Hulu will certainly expand on live TV offerings because that is its DNA. Netflix will continue to churn out origional content and likely continue to reduce content that is not exclusive. That has been its MO over the past 4 years. Netflix knows what it wants to be and has been focussed on becoming it since the company first started shipping DVD’s in those red envelopes. Online pundits and wannabe experts should stop looking at what Netflix does in relation to Amazon and Hulu because there is no Apples to Apples comparison. It’s like comparing McDonalds to Nabisco.