The end of one year and looking forward to another one is fun. We get to imagine what will happen for 12 months going forward and often people forget what we guess anyway right or wrong. This article will be full of speculation, educated guesses, and even some from the gut calls. Enjoy and let’s see how we do on our predictions for 2023.
Disney will fully purchase Hulu from Comcast
Disney has a deadline to buy out the last 33 percent of Hulu that Comcast still owns. The streaming service was once owned equally by Disney, Comcast, and Newscorp but Disney got a controlling interest in the streamer when it bought out 20th Century Fox leaving Comcast as a minority partner in the arrangement. Comcast of course is fully invested in its own service Peacock. Recently Comcast pulled the ability to stream new episodes of shows like Saturday Night Live to make them Peacock exclusives. We think that this will be the year that Bob Iger finished what he started with the 20th Century Fox merger. Once Hulu is fully owned by Disney I think we could see some very interesting things happen in that space.
Streaming companies will cut budgets
HBO Max may seem to be on the extreme end of the belt-tightening in the streaming world, but they are probably more like the leading edge. If streaming services like Netflix, Paramount+ and Disney+ do not see a big revenue increase through ad-supported streaming or efforts to add new customers they are likely to sunset series and scale back some plans for original movies. It can be as simple as letting a show know it won’t get another season after the upcoming one so that it can write an actual ending. But the days (what seemed from the outside) every idea getting green-lit is probably over.
Warner Brothers Discovery will launch a free streaming service
David Sazlav has said that WBD will be looking to launch an ad-supported streaming service (FAST for industry types). The company has a huge catalog of content that is not being effectively utilized under the current HBO Max format. While nobody is sure just what would be included something is likely on the way. The question is whether it will in fact launch early in 2023 or be delayed.
Bally Sports will sell Our bet is to Peacock
Bally Sports is a Sinclair-owned property made up of regional sports networks that used to be owned by Fox Sports before the Disney 20th Century Fox merger. As part of the regulatory process, the regional sports networks were sold. Sinclair bought them up with plans to launch a direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service. But reporting by the Athletic in November showed that the venture is losing millions. Meanwhile, Peacock is seeking to differentiate itself in the streaming world with fewer investments in building streaming service exclusives and instead building up its offering with other established products. Its move to bring aboard the WWE Network archive and access to its live premium events as well as a recently launched partnership to stream Hallmark movies and linear networks all as part of its $4.99 premium tier signals to us that Comcast is trying to build a compelling cable lite type package. Recently Comcast announced that customers in the NBC Sports Network markets would be able to access the channel through Peacock as well. With an emphasis on Sports as exemplified by The Olympic coverage, Thursday Night Football, Notre Dame, Premier League Soccer, and NASCAR, it looks like Peacock wants to be a sports offering to rival ESPN+ while also offering all of the NBC and Universal content. If Sinclair finally realizes that it needs to cut bait with the sports stations maybe Comcast could use the money it makes when Disney buys out Hulu to pick up a full slate of RSNs and build them into its growing app. The combo of the Bally Sports properties and its own connections through NBC Sports would allow Comcast to have a national footprint with ties to every major sports league in the US.
Roku will increase its sports partners
Speaking of sports Roku at the end of 2022 unveiled a unique new feature built into its recent OS 11.5 update that displays sports contests across multiple apps. But right now there are some major exceptions to the access to services. Missing in action so far is YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, ESPN, and ESPN+. As Roku looks to gain more of a foothold in the market it would be logical to see it expand on what it works into the system, most likely when it’s time to renegotiate with the various powers that be.
Companies are going to start selling their content instead of having their own services
For the past 3 years, the streaming world has been all about multiple companies launching their own siloed services to keep their content in-house instead of selling streaming rights to services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. The major conglomerates decided they wanted to get in on that direct-to-consumer market by starting services like HBO Max, Showtime Streaming service, CBS All Access, Peacock, Discovery+. AMC+, and countless more. What they did not account for was that spending millions and billions developing original content for those services while also maintaining legacy studio content for broadcast, cable and major motion pictures would put them behind the 8 ball with investors who really don’t have any idea how the TV business works. They just know last month my stock looked like this and now it looks like this. Even when Bob Chapek spelled it out as though he was talking to a first-grade classroom a year ago his gnat memory investors freaked when it turned out that Disney+ lost money in the same year that they invested in multiple new shows. The thing about DTC streaming is that you have to factor in how much money you will be able to make by adding subscribers, how many subscribers you can get, how much money it will take to get them in the first place and be realistic about how many subscribers you should expect to keep to figure out how much you will get back on the programming investment. The other solution (creating content and selling it for millions) is much more simple and a guaranteed paycheck. If Netflix overpays for the rights to stream say, Seinfeld, that’s on Netflix. Comcast still gets paid. But did Comcast earn back the money it spent to put together the Saved By The Bell Reboot, or The Punky Brewster reboot, or Brave New World? Did Peacock really gain by having The Office instead of letting a streaming service pay hundreds of millions to get the exclusive rights to stream a very old sitcom? I don’t know. But they do. Expect to see more of what WBD has already announced. New animated projects using its characters and IP will live on Amazon through a new deal. WBD will probably do more of that and other networks and companies will too. Obviously, Hallmark is betting on Peacock instead of say “Halmark+”. I expect to see streaming services with more content from outside their own cooperate families and do not expect to see many new premium streaming services to launch.
NextGen TV adoption will grow
Most people don’t know or care what ATSC 3 is. But more TVs with ATSC tuners are being manufactured and sold every day. People buy them because they want high-end TVs and the feature happens to be built into them. For the uninitiated ATSC 3/NextGen TV is just the latest broadcast/over-the-air (like you can get it with an antenna) standard. And it’s gonna have a lot of really cool capabilities. But with no stations appearing to market new technology or features using the service there is no mainstream demand for it. Right now most people will expect their TVs to have apps and even 4k resolution. But they are not going to demand ATSC 3.0. But because companies like LG, Samsung, and others are making sets with it built in, the technology will make its way into homes. This year I would expect to see more manufacturers start building TVs with ATSC 3.0 tuners built in. The same thing happened with 4k TVs. There was not really a demand for it, heck there was no content for them yet standard TVs just started shipping with 4K resolution but if you can get one at Black Friday Prices you will. I mean why not? That will be the path for NextGen TV. In the end, it could be a really cool consumer tool that is super popular. But it will work its way into homes by accident.