The Complicated Way Streaming Is Becoming TV

It is fascinating to watch the televisionization of streaming video. It was always inevitable and I’m sure to a lot of people, regressive and sad. But that’s what’s happening.

Bloomberg is reporting that some of the cable networks not owned by networks--that is, AMC, Discovery and Viacom--are considering their own streaming video service. It would be pegged to people who don’t want to pay to see sports and those who don’t want to see broadcast networks/local stations and their cable urchin.  Presumably, there would be commercials.

This is an odd ménage à trois, because in the human version of these arrangements, at least two of the participants have something in common, usually themselves.

The cable networks owned by those three companies are fairly dissimilar. That’s why they exist in the first place, of course. But in the past they were offered in a much larger package of cable channels.



As a mini-package, a skinniest bundle offered online, they’d still be the kind of package that wouldn’t seem to have a natural constituency, a hodge-podge arranged by corporations, not common consumer desire.

Let’s say it existed, for “less than $20 a month” which Bloomberg says is the price point being discussed.

That still leaves a viewer missing the broadcast networks and probably people subscribing to that above bundle  are generalist enough that they’d miss the stuff on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW and Hispanic networks.

Right now, to get those online,  you’d have to subscribe to DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, Sling, YouTube TV or the so-new-it-doesn’t-yet-exist Hulu live streaming service, each with its own special features (and limitations), each for around $40 a month.

And when you buy those, you get all those cable channels operated by the networks. Which puts you nearly exactly where you were,  but for $60 a month.

So that’s a problem because the average consumer paid $103 per month for cable in 2015 and rates have increased at about 8 times the rate of inflation since 2011.

Nobody--not cable operators, not cable networks, not even broadcast networks-- want that to end.

Which is a good indicator that in the long run, you’ll still get hosed.

Michael Nathanson, an analyst at MoffettNathanson, told Bloomberg  that the kind of entertainment online package being proposed could violate deals the network-owning biggies, including Disney and Fox, have with cable and satellite operators. So, these new splinter arrangements may just be to get the lawyers something new to do.

From a cost benefit standpoint, hopping onto one of those streaming services now, when they are deeply discounted, might be a good deal while they last. And they’re not built to last.
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