2022 was a year filled with drama in the video streaming category and there are some strong signs that an earthquake that will shape what we watch and where is rumbling beneath the surface.
Netflix lost over a million subscribers, canceled content unexpectedly (at least to viewers), and introduced both an Ad Tier, and a crackdown on password sharing. Despite all that, they are still embarking on a major expansion of their production capacity.
In addition, the Warner/Discovery merger created more chaos, in which subscribers have become uncertain about the future of HBO Max and the DC Universe.
However, the biggest streaming story of the year might be the return of Bob Iger to the Disney CEO chair after a disastrous year under the leadership of Bob Chapek.
What Might Happen In 2023
Looking ahead to 2023, it looks like big changes are coming. Although things can change over the course of a year, there are some strong signs according to analysts and other observers that a major category disruption is very likely to occur.
The peak TV viewing trend is coming to an end; which means that streaming services are looking to cut costs to meet possible lower viewing demand. There is simply too much content to watch and not enough time to watch it. Along with that, they are too many subacription streaming services – streaming services are competing for the same viewers.
The cost of subscribing to the current number of paid streaming services is just not financially feasible for many. Here at eCoustics, we reported on this trend at end of 2021. Although there are a lot of free streaming services (and free over-the-air TV), those options don’t offer the latest and greatest content that may only be exclusively available through the streaming services you have to pay to watch. Even streaming device maker Roku saw lower-than-expected financial results for Q2 of 2022.
Disney needs to right its ship. Streaming is draining the coffers and Bob Chapek’s leadership didn’t help. Many of Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars streaming shows have not been well received by viewers. Also, the political friction between Disney and the State of Florida hasn’t helped its public relations (depending on your point of view).
There is talk about a possible Netflix merger with Disney. However, the SEC (Security and Exchange Commission) would probably not allow a Netflix/Disney merger because of anti-trust and the $300 billion dollar price.
It is expected that Bob Iger will do some serious cost-cutting. Wells Fargo Analyst Steven Cahall predicts that one cost-cutting move for Disney in 2023 might be to spin off ABC TV and ESPN.
Disney getting out of ABC and ESPN might change things in terms of SEC scrutiny in a merger situation as Disney would be giving up some portions of its current content and positioning in both news and sports.
What would make a Netflix merger attractive for Disney even if they don’t give up ABC or ESPN, is both the streamer’s success (and eliminating a competitor) and the indication that Netflix does not want to be in the cable TV or sports business.
In addition to the Disney option, Netflix is also looking for a network to extend its reach so a Paramount/Netflix merger or some sort of exclusive distribution agreement might be in the cards between those streaming players. This may save some shows that might otherwise be canceled. However, from the looks of it, Paramount might not really need Netflix’s help right now.
Also, Netflix is in the process of planning to build one of the largest fully integrated content production facilities in the world at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey that will include over 500,000 square feet of sound stage facilities and state-of-the-art editing and post-production capabilities.
Does Netflix need to spend almost $900 million USD just to make television programs and movies for its own channel or are there other potential partners who might want a piece of the action?
Disney, Netflix, and CBS/Paramount aren’t the only ones to watch. Warner/Discovery seems to be aggressively reorganizing its HBO/HBO Max service and content. The mysterious disappearance of Westworld and the retooling of its DC properties is a telling sign that Warner/Discovery might look a lot different by the end of 2023.
Another game changer for 2023 is that YouTube has secured the rights for NFL Sunday Ticket which will be offered on its YouTube TV platform. Broadcast TV seems to be increasingly left in the dust when it comes to sports.
Regardless of how, or if, all the pieces fall into place, 2023 might be a huge and chaotic year for the companies involved as well for both the streaming giants and streaming viewers.