Why The Streaming Giants May Only Just Be Getting Started
It is easy in 2021 to look at the streaming giants and consider them to be at their peaks. Really, it’s almost hard to imagine platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, and the like getting much bigger or more relevant. They have already transcended streaming to become major production studios; any talk of our biggest modern media companies has to include them as “disruptors” in the field.
Despite all of this, there are actually reasons to believe that the streaming giants have not peaked yet, and are in fact just getting started.
The main factor, simple as it may seem, is the sheer popularity of streaming right now. One need only look at surface-level numbers and surveys to see how much time the modern public spends watching TV and films (as opposed to having to dig deeply into data). For instance, in the spring of 2020 a report on IndieWire found that Americans were streaming an astonishing eight hours of content per day — a number influenced by the pandemic but nonetheless indicative of entertainment preferences. It’s not a uniquely American phenomenon either. Not long ago, a survey on Gala Bingo measured the things that make people in the UK happiest, and “watching your favorite film/TV show” came in eighth. However, the only real entertainment that ranked higher was “listening to [your] favorite music” (other options being things like hugs and enjoying sunshine). In other words, people across the pond would rather be streaming than just about anything else, too.
The bottom line is that streaming has become perhaps the go-to means of amusement for much of the world. At least for the short term, that only means more business for the providers.
Deals for Creators
Some of the biggest news we’ve seen out of the streaming world in 2021 came just recently when it was announced that Matt Stone and Trey Parker — the creators of “South Park” — had inked an exclusive deal with the powers behind the Paramount Plus service. This deal will reportedly supply the show creators with an astounding $900 million over six years to produce 14 films and three 10-episode seasons connected to “South Park.”
This is big news for “South Park” fans and streaming enthusiasts in general. However, it also forces one to look around and realize that not that many creators have these kinds of deals just yet. Yes, there have been examples here and there like Netflix’s partnerships with figures like Adam Sandler and Rian Johnson. But it is not yet the norm for creators or major industry talents to sign these kinds of exclusives.
So, what if the “South Park” situation is more of a sign of things to come than an outlier? How popular would Apple TV+ be if it were suddenly the only place to see new Tom Hanks films? What if a popular reality show like “Top Chef” were snatched up by Amazon? Could Christopher Nolan get $1 billion from HBO Max to spend the rest of his career on their platform? We don’t know the answers to these questions just yet, but they do speak to the largely untapped potential in creator deals on these platforms.
State of Competition
The state of competition also looks somewhat ideal for streaming giants — or at least for some of them. In the earlier days of streaming, these companies were competing with cable networks and channels. That battle, however, has more or less been won. That’s not to say that cable has been fully defeated, nor that it’s on the verge of disappearing. But the excitement and the future belong quite clearly to steaming services. This means that at this point they’re essentially competing with each other, and to some extent production companies. In the end, this may mean that some streaming platforms don’t survive. But the larger competition against older ways of finding film and TV content has been won.
The Gaming Factor
Finally, and maybe most significantly in the long run, we are also now facing the distinct possibility of streaming platforms getting into gaming. Netflix’s coming foray into video games has been well documented and appears to be very serious. The idea, essentially, is that streaming platforms can do for gaming what they’ve done for shows and film — make games available online, on demand, rather than only via physical copy or download. Should this work — and it’s a good bet it will in the long run — streaming platforms will be poised to gradually take over the gaming world. It can’t be overstated how enormous this would be for the giants of the industry.
Again, it’s hard to look at those giants and imagine that they aren’t already at their peak. Considering all of the factors discussed here though, it becomes surprisingly simple to envision them growing much larger and more influential still.