The streaming world got more crowded, got more consolidated, and more mainstream in 2021. Many issues made their way into the headlines this year but only a select few are really transformative. There are others that we could get into, but we feel that this list represents the top stories in the streaming industry for 2021. Please enjoy our rundown of top stories of 2021.
This year can be somewhat defined by disagreements. A lot of them involved Google. Google VS Comcast, Google VS Disney and Google VS YouTUbe threatened to take viewing opportunities from customers on multiple platforms. All of the issues were worked out in the end but viewers should not be surprised to see other companies face off in 2022. Every major streaming service has to work out carriage deals with someone. One fight that won’t happen is Hulu VS ESPN, due to the fact that Disney owns both operations.
The further rise of FASTS
FAST is an acronym for Free ad-supported streaming services. The streaming options have been with us for a number of years. Some of the most popular ones started as independent start ups. They include Pluto TV, XUMO, and Tubi. They are now all owned by VicaomCBS, Comcast, and Fox respectively. The programming on all of the platforms has grown in scope while maintaining some of that indy flair that defined them at launch. Other services have launched over the past few years usually also backed by larger outfits such as Sinclair’s STIRR. It turns out that there are lots of people who will gladly watch ads, even the same few over and over if it means they can see things they like. This sector will certainly be a big story going forward.
Amazon Starts Making TVs
Amazon has been in the smart TV business for about 8 years by licensing its OS to TV manufacturers and of course selling dongles and other items. But for the first time Amazon got into the TV business with its own TVs. There are still TVs with Fire OS selling at Best Buy and through Toshiba, but Amazon now owns and operates a TV business. The TV’s debuted right around holiday season and will likely be with us for some time.
WWE Network To Peacock
Peacock became the home to the content of the WWE Network in the US through an agreement with the Sports Entertainment promotion. The deal brought decades of professional wrestling action to the streaming services pay subscribers including live access to WWE pay-per-view events and a library of events and shows from multiple promotions now owned by the WWE.
Roku Jumps Into Original programming
Starting with purchasing the Quiby library and ending the year with its own new productions, Roku jumped headlong into the TV content business. On top of that the company further defined its own FAST service by integrating into Roku Powered TV’s and giving it its own tile in the Roku interface. Roku is now a Platform licensing business, a content owner, a device maker, and an app into itself. The company also continues to add new partners for its Roku Ready program that helps integrate 3rd party audio hardware into home theater systems.
Theatrical Run Window shortens
We will never wait for months to see movies transition from theaters to TV screens again. Prompted by the declining movie attendance and closure of movie theaters during 2020 and 2021 (do we really have to say why) many studios did the once unthinkable step of releasing movies at home the same day they screened at theaters. There were a number of flavors for this from premium streaming by Disney+ for a few major releases to HBO Max dropping movies for their regular subscribers in a push to grow the service and other options in between, users had a real choice between buying tickets for the family and going out or (usually) saving some cash and staying home. This would not stand as theaters began to re-open but the paradign started to shift. New agreements by studios and the theater industry shortened many theater runs to as little as a month. While some called it the true death of the cenima experiance Spider-Man No Way Home has shown that audiences will pay to see films that look far better at a movie theater anyway.
Discovery+ quietly launched in early 2021 and has gained millions of subscribers since. The service is built on Discovery Networks’ gigantic library of reality programming which includes competition shows, how-to shows, health-related shows and more. An agreement between Discovery and A&E Networks also allowed for the service to offer the Disney owned channels to share similar programming making the service a preferred destination for cord-cutters looking to replace cooking shows, home shows, side shows 😉 and more.
Fubo TV and other vendors have begun to get into the online gambling business with integrated betting on sports events. While it is not mainstream yet, the move is likely the start of a whole new revenue stream for sports broadcasters and may even help services pay for the cost of sports streaming rights and more. ESPN may well get into the business going forward as more and more organizations look for an angle into an industry that has been thriving without them for decades.
Discovery Announces Merger with Warner Media
Discovery Networks announced a planned merger between the media company and Warner Media, currently owned by AT&T. Warner Media, which owns CNN, TNT, TBS and HBO has been part of AT&T’s portfolio for a number of years but in 2021 AT&T began to pull back from a number of TV pursuits. The deal is subject to regulatory approval in 2022.
Amazon and MGM
Amazon made a bid for the MGM library in 2021 which would give the corporation a whole new library to integrate into its streaming offering. The move would allow for further consolodation of the media world as has been the trend since the early 2000s.