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Subscription burn-out

25 October 2018

In the beginning there was Netflix; and all was good.

Then there was Amazon Prime; and all was still good.

Fast-forward a while and now there's Hulu, HBO, Neon, Lightbox, etc, etc, etc.

What's more, even our FTA channels are looking at getting in on the subscription or pay-per-view online model with TVNZ announcing that it may start charging for ad-free viewing of its programmes online as of next year.

Nobody ever complained about having a wider choice of options - but I do think that we're headed for a bit of a consumer kick-back when it comes to online streaming media.


Well it's one thing to flick $15 a month at Netflix and then just sit back while enjoying the content.

It's another thing altogether if you have 5, 10 or even 15 individual payments going out each and every month to a raft of online content providers.

Already things are reaching the point where the once-cheap streaming video option of Netflix has turned into something akin to a SkyTV subscription -- simply due to the number of individual services one needs to subscribe to if you want to see everything that takes your fancy.

Add to this your Spotify subscription, a paywalled newspaper site or two (as is planned by NZH for next year) and pretty soon you'll find that you're actually spending a lot more than you might want on media. Hell, it might even make SkyTV look cheap!

This causes me to raise the concept I first mooted many, many years ago.

What's needed is a media clearing-house. A "one stop shop" for all your online subscriptions that creates a single, discounted, convenient charge each month and then disburses that money to the various content providers on your behalf.

What's the advantage of this over simply having each company bill your credit card individually for the service they provide?

Well it should be cheaper, potentially a lot cheaper.

A single credit-card transaction reduces costs and the fact that the content providers don't have to fart around managing thousands or millions of individual transactions also reduces costs. These savings can be passed on to consumers.

The other benefit is marketing. Instead of visiting each and every content vendor's sites or finding their promotional material, the "one-stop-shop" would let you browse the offerings very conveniently and manage subscriptions... perhaps even on a month by month basis.

Think of this as the Ticketek of online media.

If you stop and think about it... with this model, everyone's a winner!

The consumer gets lower costs and simplified subscription management. The one-stop-shop takes a very small commission on every subscription and thus makes a good profit. The streaming services are able to off-load their billing and some of their marketing to the one-stop-shop and thus reduce their operating costs.

What's not to love about this?

From a consumer's point of view it would be pretty easy to go to a single website and sign up for 12 months of Netflix, 3 months of Amazon Prime starting each December (so as to watch The Grand Tour), have the occasional flirt with HBO, pick a few sports streams to suit your tastes and then just sit back and enjoy.

And you know... I reckon that SkyTV should be looking long and hard at this. Moving into this Ticketek for streaming media could be their salvation. If they decided to become the "one-stop-shop" then they could reinvent themselves and own an entirely new businesses model for this industry.

Oh hell... what am I saying? Given their arrogance, lack of consideration for existing customers and proven inability to keep pace with changes in the market, SkyTV would probably be the *least* suited to this role.

But someone should give it a go - don't you reckon?

If not, I can see consumers simply sticking to one or two mainstream stream sources and ignoring the rest -- solely because the management of an ever-increasing number of individual subscriptions would be a pain in the arse and a dent in the wallet.

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