We are in the early stages of the streaming wars, the point in television history in which we begin to regret the whole idea of “cutting the cord.” Sure, many of us are giving up cable, but in order to maintain a steady diet of television #content, we must pay for a growing number of streaming platforms. Right now Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime Video dominate the streaming market, and much of the television we want to watch is available in one of those four platforms.
Unfortunately, that’s going to change soon, as additional streaming options flood the market and, in doing so, take their properties away from Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon. Disney Plus will be the first to arrive this December, and Disney is already pulling its content library from Netflix. Meanwhile, Disney now wholly controls Hulu, and since Disney already owns ABC and recently bought Fox/FX that means that ABC and Fox/FX programming will continue to air on Hulu. In three years, however, Hulu will lose NBC programming while Warner Brothers will also take its library away from Hulu and Netflix for its WarnerMedia streaming service. Got it?
In other words, in a few years time, cable will be largely a thing of the past, but consumers will have to choose among a variety of streaming services to fulfill all their content needs: Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon, HBO, NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, CBS All Access, and don’t forget Apple’s forthcoming streaming service, which will be loaded with original content plus there are rumors that Apple may buy Sony at some point.
What does that mean for all of your favorite TV shows? That’s not entirely clear at the moment, because there are complicated licensing agreements involved. Shows like Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and American Vandal, for instance, are “Netflix Originals,” but they were actually produced by other production companies, so in several years, those three shows (and others) could end up on Disney, NBCUniversal, and CBS All Access, respectively, depending on how the licensing agreements shake out. The same may be true for several other Netflix originals.
In the shorter term, however, several of the most popular shows will likely be pulled from Netflix and Hulu when their licensing agreements end and streamed exclusively on the services that own them. In fact, within the next three years (or much sooner, in many cases), here is where many of your favorite shows will end up:
Comcast, the cable company, owns NBCUniversal (formerly NBC/Universal/ USA Network), and NBCUniversal is expected to roll out its free ad-supported streaming service next year. Its library will include the following titles:
Law and Order
Parks and Recreation
AT&T, the phone company, owns WarnerMedia as well as HBO and is expected to launch a streaming service in the fall. Its library will include these series:
Big Bang Theory
Game of Thrones
Meanwhile, Disney, which now owns Marvel, Pixar, ABC, ESPN, Fox and FX, among others, will roll out Disney Plus in November. Family-oriented programming will end up on Disney Plus, while more adult oriented fare will end up on Hulu. Disney, however, will bundle Disney Plus and Hulu together for consumers who want that. The library for the combined streaming service will include these shows:
Malcolm in the Middle
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
One interesting wrinkle here is who ends up with programming from AMC Networks, which owns AMC, IFC, BBC America, and Sundance. Will Netflix continue to license Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, or will AMC build upon its existing $5 per month ad-free streaming service and create a competitive stand-alone streaming service? Meanwhile, CBS All Access may at some point call upon its entire library (which includes Showtime and some CW programming, as well as CBS Studios shows) in order to compete with the other streaming services.
Whatever the case, for those consumers who just want to watch reruns of Friends, The Office, and Grey’s Anatomy, in the future they’ll be unable to do so under one banner (Netflix). They’ll have to subscribe to three streaming services to fulfill their comfort TV needs. On the other hand, we currently live in a world where Freaks and Geeks is not available on any streaming network, so the sooner that is rectified the better.