What the Buying Decision Process can tell us about all those streaming platforms.

It was always bound to happen. As you sit there reading this right now, I am almost sure you are currently subscribed to at least three different streaming platforms. Not only do you have those subscriptions, but as you hear about the release of Disney+ and read the announcements about NBC’s Peacock, I am also sure you are also asking yourself, “Are there too many damn streaming services?

How did we get here?

Most general consumers are only now just realizing that the paid-television industry (that is, television that you cannot watch for free via over-the-air broadcast) has been in a state of flux, ravaged by instability, uncertainty, and ultimately, layoffs, for the past several years. The most analogous situation is the music industry around the birth of the Dot Com Era, circa the days of Napster and Limewire. As with music 20 years ago, the buying decision process for television has radically changed.

Need and desire recognition changed with the advent of Netflix’s streaming platform in 2007. Consumers realized that technology had advanced to the point that, not only could you stream video in high definition over the Internet, but you could subscribe to a platform that would let you watch exactly what you wanted to watch when you wanted to watch it. Forget tuning into HBO for an airing of The Matrix at 11 PM on a Wednesday night. You could just log onto Netflix whenever you wanted and start streaming the movie. Coincidentally, this period in time also saw the rise of this era of social media usage. As consumers became more and more accustomed to sharing what they were watching online, we began to see the proliferation of FOMO: the fear of missing out. This in turn further drove more consumers to connect to streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.

This spike in Internet streaming logically drove savvy media companies to begin exploring and launching their own streaming services. As Americans became more familiarized with streaming television, the need development began to change. Why do I need to pay $150 per month to get 400 channels I do not watch when I can pay $50 per month for the 40 channels I do watch? Consumers began to demand television services that would give them exactly what they wanted without any excess fluff. The variety of services on the market meant they could seek out their very own Goldilocks services, just the right amount of content for just the right price. Cable and satellite operators were left to figure out how to catch up as they faced quarter after quarter of bleeding subscribers.

Unfortunately for television fans, this period of greater consumer choice has also been accompanied by the skyrocketing cost of content, and at the end of the day, content is king. Major media conglomerates like Comcast and Disney have surveyed the market and determined that they hold all the cards. They no longer need distribution partners because they have enough of their own content to build a compelling streaming platform offering. Faced with this situation, the vanguard of online streamers, Netflix and Hulu, have combatted this flight of content by digging in and creating their own critically acclaimed content, like House of Cards and Handmaid’s Tale.

And so, we return to our first question: are there too many streaming services? As consumers continue to analyze their streaming purchases, the future of the paid-television industry will depend on whether or not they are satisfied with not just the price of their subscriptions but the convenience offered. Disney’s newest bundle offering, including Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu, points to a potential change in direction on the horizon. What if there were a service that combines all the content we want to watch? We would only have to pay one fee and it would all be on the same platform. We could call it something unique and edgy like Xfinity or Uverse. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea?

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