Commentary

John Malone: Are Streamers Packaging Like Cable?

In the modern digital TV and video world, streaming bundles are on the rise -- even homemade ones. But are they really what consumers want?

None other than longtime cable TV pioneer John Malone believes there is more to come in this arena as consumers pick, drop, and again add different streaming and digital packages.

Perhaps consumers might sign up for a low-cost virtual pay TV service -- say $25 a month (Philo)or $35 a month (Sling TV). Now add some ad-free premium streamers Netflix and HBO Max, at around $15 or $16 each. Perhaps throw in a low -cost Apple TV+ ($4.99), and discovery+ ($4.99) service.

All that might give the consumer a $65- or $75-a-month bill. That would in theory be still relatively cheap versus the bill of around $80-a-month for cable/satellite/telco that some consumers have been paying recently. Still the difference in price is narrowing.

The trouble is that while some streaming/virtual digital consumers are trying different bundling, legacy TV companies are not at all profitable in the streaming space yet. Virtually all streaming platforms will be in the red for at least the next couple of years.

Except Netflix.

Still, Netflix and Disney+ are trying to find other ways to find growth -- offering lower monthly subscription fees in options that include some limited advertising interruptions.

Well, we know what that can mean. Any ad-supported service/platform can form a beachhead to build an advertising business that can -- over the years -- grow ad inventory, ever slowly. In other words, not so ‘limited-advertising.’

But one wonders what the consumer wants -- exactly? Malone believes many more streaming bundles will likely come from smaller companies. He says Discovery Inc. was that kind of smaller company. Then again, in buying WarnerMedia, now it is not that small any longer.

Perhaps this goes to another approach -- signing onto just one (or two) premium streamers that can give consumers a broad range of content: Live sports and news, scripted prime-time programming, local TV news, unscripted/reality content, all in one place.

So consumers can spend $15 a month on that. Get a virtual pay TV service for $25; (and a digital antenna to get free, local over-the-air stations). That brings the cost down to $40 a month.

Analysts might believe the merger of HBO Max and discovery+, for example, is part of the one-stop-shopping streaming trend. For others that might be Hulu, Paramount+, or Peacock.

Good news from all of this might be the disappearance of the word “bundle” -- which for my money speaks to the word "cheap" -- not premium.

A new catchphrase? What about "broad-streaming"? You would know this from its former iteration: Broadcasting.

1 comment about "John Malone: Are Streamers Packaging Like Cable?".
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  1. John MacLane from Private, August 29, 2022 at 1:51 p.m.

    In the modern digital TV and video world, streaming bundles are on the rise -- even homemade ones. But are they really what consumers want?

    The short answer? No. The long answer? Nooooooooooooooooooo.

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