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When more (streaming) is less

5 March 2019

I always said that when Netflix came to New Zealand, I would sign up -- rather than use Kodi and plug-ins like 1Channel or Exodus.

True to my word, I am a Netflix subscriber, although the wife is the main user of this service because I just don't usually have time to sit passively in front of the big screen these days.

However, those plug-ins are still seeing a bit of screen-time and I have a feeling that we may see a resurgence in "piracy" if the streaming market keeps going the way it is headed.

What am I talking about?

Well for a long time, Netflix was pretty much the only game in town. Yeah, there have been "also-rans" like Neon and Lightbox but the only serious streaming option for Kiwis has been "the big N". However, that's changing and it's a change that could drive some folk back to their Kodi boxes.

We now have Amazon Prime and a raft of new streaming options popping out of the woodwork.

I know of several people who've signed up to Amazon Prime solely to watch The Grand Tour. All of them have said they'll be canceling their subscription when that series finishes in a month or two's time.

But there are a myriad of other small, low-cost streaming services such as this one now also pitching their wares to the market.

At just $6.95 a month it might be tempting to sign up and enjoy a bunch of documentaries, if that's your bag... but I fear we're starting to see a deep fragmentation of the streaming content market that will ultimately be counter-productive. Too many small streaming options will create a bit of a nightmare for anyone who wants maximum choice.

It seems that every man and his dog ( including the BBC and ITV) are rolling out subscription-based streaming services now... with many others guaranteed to follow in their footsteps.

$7 a month here, $5 a month there, $14.95 a month for Netflix... pretty soon, if you're not careful, you're paying out a fairly sizable chunk of change for content that is sometimes duplicated across the various services.

Whilst it could be argued that being spoilt for choice is not a bad thing, I have a feeling that in this case, it might be.

The problem is that when you have scores of streaming options, many of those options will offer only a tiny number of "must have" series or programs and people will not commit to a monthly subscription just for that tiny bit of good stuff. Instead, they'll go back to Kodi with the plug-ins that let them watch unauthorised copies of that content for free.

And, once you've fired up the Kodi box, you might as well use it for a bunch of stuff eh?

I suspect that over the next 12 months or so, we will see a plethora of new streaming content providers but over the couple of years that follow, many of them will disappear or be acquired by other larger players. The market will become consolidated and we'll be back to a few big-names. However, in the meantime, piracy could make a resurgence, driven by consumers who simply refuse to pay out for a dozen or more sub-$10/month subscriptions.

What I'd like to see, and what may eventually happen, is that the distribution aspect of streaming video operates at a different level to the production component.

Instead of Netflix making its own content and distributing it via its service, we are probably going to see companies that are solely distribution-based and other companies which are solely content-creation based. Yes, there's a fair bit of this already but the likes of Netflix are trying to integrate both activities under a single banner and perhaps their biggest competition will come from those who retain the separation.

As YouTube continues to crash and burn (from a content-creator's perspective), I would not be surprised if "the next big thing" arrives in the form of a subscription-based streaming video distribution company that takes indie content and makes it available to its subscribers for a flat monthly fee.

Yes, YouTube Red is this type of service -- but YouTube does not adequately curate its content and it also offers the "ad-funded" option so a specific "subscription only" network could easily trounce them, if properly marketed and managed.

So stay tuned... I expect to see some *very* interesting changes in, and evolution of, the streaming video content marketplace over the next year or three.

Where do you see this segment of the entertainment industry going? Will there be a mass consolidation of players, leaving just a handful of "big names" delivering content through their streaming networks? Will a subscription-based indie distributor come out of the woodwork and totally eclipse YouTube Red? Will the likes of SkyTV and FTA broadcasters continue to take a huge hit?

Dust off your crystal ball and share your own predictions -- and also tell us how many streaming services *you* subscribe to right now. What is the maximum number of individual services you'd consider subscribing to in future?

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