When one streaming service adds content or changes up an app we in the media will report on it as part of the daily grind of content. But there is not much time spent to talk about what the services really are. There are some major questions and issues that are very often overlooked and this causes misunderstandings in both the media and the consumer landscape. Are streaming services built for cord cutters? Are they an extension of something more linear, are they even targetting the same kind of audience? This story will address some of those issues and hopefully begin to weed out misconceptions. If you are fully aware of all of the information in this story pat yourself on the back, It means you are on the cutting edge.
What are cord cutting services?
There is a tendency by some in the industry to call every single streaming app a cord-cutting service or tool. Why do they do this? Becuase most streaming apps are available to watch without cable. And while this is, in fact, the case, just because a service can stream content to a TV it does not make it a cord-cutting service. It makes it a TV option.
Cord cutting is about getting rid of cable or satellite TV service. This does not mean dropping internet service and just warping back to pre AOL disc days. There are very few companies that advertise as true alternates to cable. In order to legitimately be such a service, a company has to be able to decently replicate the ability to view live television via the internet. This means that they must provide actual recognizable channels like ESPN or AMC etc. A consumer needs to be able to say, ” I can watch the game on this the same way I can on cable”. Otherwise, you are not replacing cable. You are walking away from it. Services that allow consumers to end traditional cable service in lieu of Internet-delivered content include Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu With Live TV, Playstation View and Fubo TV. All of these services have a different flavor on TV delivery whether it be a different take of grids and DVRs, but they are essentially streaming services built for people who don’t want to pay for traditional TV services anymore. In some markets the savings one can get from the switch is monumental. No one service provides every single thing that the biggest cable packages do, but they are the closest facsimile to cable TV on the market at the time.
Amazon is not in Competition with Netflix?
Not exactly. Netflix and Amazon both offer streaming content to customers, but consumers approach the two companies totally differently. Netflix is simply a company built around providing content to viewers. It started with DVD deliveries (which still exist) and later became the biggest streaming content provider in the world. Content acquisition (TV Shows and movies from major and independent studios) and content creation drive the company which has produced more than 600 original entries over the past 4 years. Some of those titles are stand-alone specials like its many comedy specials like Dave Chapels return to TV. Other entries include original movies like Bright staring Will Smith or full multi-season TV shows like Orange is the New Black or The Ranch. Netflix essentially works as an on-demand TV Network.
Amazon’s Video offering is something very different. On the surface a consumer sees another app with free movies and TV Shows to watch as well as original TV shows and movies. So it looks like a different flavor of the same thing as Wendy’s vs McDonald’s. Here is the difference. Netflix sells subscriptions for a video service. While Amazon essentially provides a video service as part of a buyer incentive program built around free shipping. Amazon sells everything from TV’s to toilet paper. Want it shipped for free no matter what it costs, you can do it with Amazon Prime. Amazon knows that customers with Prime buy from Amazon more than those without it. It has even begun to work Prime discounts into Whole Foods, which the company now owns. The video offerings are one of the things included with Prime along with Amazon Music, the Kindle Lending Library for e-books and a cavalcade of other services including cloud storage. Amazon drives views to its video offerings via the shopping service. Amazon even makes and sells streaming video players with Netflix on them. If Amazon shut down its video service tomorrow the company would still be very much in business. It has one of the top shopping websites on earth. On the other hand, if Netflix stopped streaming it would be out of business.
Hulu Is not in competition with Netflix
Would Hulu like to have Netflix’s 100 million plus subscribers? Yes. But while the services have some customers in common, there are many who would not abandon one over the other. Because the two services are set up to do something completely different. Hulu is set up to deliver access to TV shows that are currently airing in season. Hulu also has access to a number of top recent movie titles. Outside of its original content Netflix delivers TV shows that have either wrapped up for the season and in many cases have not been on the air in years. Hulu is a venture between Disney, Comcast, Time Warner and Fox (soon to be owned by Disney or Comcast). The bulk of the content available for Hulu’s on-demand service is built around properties owned by the primaries. There are numerous other studios with archived content as well. But it is fairly obvious that if a consumer wants to get the most archived content it’s going to be found on Netflix. On the other hand, if a user wants to see last nights episode of Blackish or SNL it is going to be on Hulu.
Cable and cord cutting services are not in competition with Netflix and Amazon
Some people may decide that they do not want to pay for cable bundles anymore and in turn cancel service. They may then add Netflix to their daily or weekly TV watching habit. But Netflix is not built on bringing down Comcast or Charter. Nobody chooses to watch the news on Netflix instead of Comcast. Nobody watches the NBA Championship on Netflix. It does not provide live TV at all and has never announced an intention to. Netflix is no more a threat to the bundle than reading or going to the pool. Think about it. If people were choosing Netflix in masse over cable services than the industry would be down over 100 million subscribers. Heck, the same thing goes for Amazon.
Some streaming services are just outgrowths of major studios
Sony Crackle and Tubi-TV are two free ad-supported services that are found across most streaming platforms. They are built around major studio content. Mostly movie content with a little smattering of TV thrown in for good measure. There are other similar ventures out there. Basically, these services are a great way to cash in on older content that is not heavily in demand from cable and broadcast networks. They can sell ads for movies like Night of the Comet and The Final Count Down and provide viewers with a chance to look back at old favorites. Not all of the content is 20 years old by any stretch, but it is not from 2018. Media companies have been producing quality contnet for years and streaming it is a way to make money on properties that are not in the public eye anymore.
Some Streaming Is For Paying Cable And Satelite customers
Yes there are lots of apps on smartphones and set-top boxes that are free to use or available via a small fee. But some are built with paying cable customers in mind. This is what people call TV-Everywhere apps. There are TV everywhere apps for many major networks like ABC, NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports 1, Syfy and many others. Users will not be able to access the majority of the content on these streaming options without a cable or satellite service login. One of the more misunderstood TV everywhere services is HBO Go. HBO Go is a free on-demand option for HBO subscribers who receive the service from cable and satellite services. While HBO also offers a totally different service called HBO Now, which is a monthly subscription service outside of the bounds of cable.
HBO Now and HBO Go Are not the Same Thing
HBO Go was discussed in the above section. It is an app that offers a slick on-demand interface for users who subscribe to HBO through a cable or satellite provider. Users who want to use HBO Go must sign in via a cable system username and email. HBO Now, on the other hand, is like HBO and Netflix had a baby. HBO Now is a free-standing service that users can sign up for monthly whether they have cable or not. Users get access to HBO’s full original films and tv show library along with tons of major studio releases found on the networks on-demand catalog. The studio content rotates periodically as new titles come available.
Streaming services cannot guaranty you will get local channels
None of the cable replacement services mentioned in this story provide access to every local network affiliate to every viewer. None of the companies explicitly advertise this though. This creates a great deal of confusion. But because the right to stream your local CBS or NBC affiliate is based on multiple negotiations the chance that any given cord cutting live TV service has access to all of the local broadcast channels is slim. The services often have a tool on their websites where users can see which local channels they will receive.
There is a growing list of products that allow streaming of Local TV Channels
Air TV, The HD Home Run, and Tablo are a few of the stand-alone products that allow users to stream broadcast TV. some products are easily set up to allow users to watch TV from anywhere in the country. Each requires a user to have an antenna and branded hardware. The apps are especially helpful to those with set-top boxes who will not have to switch from one input to another when watching TV.
There are Lots of Free Live 24-hour news channels
CBSN, ABC, Bloomberg, Cheddar and others offer users free access to live news over the internet. Many of the major network branded services also offer on-demand access to segments and full shows from their lineups. Cord cutters can really take advantage of these channels to keep up with the daily world and national news and even those with cable may well appreciate the ability to find new content and perspectives.