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Is It Time For Streaming Services To Be Bundled Like Cable?

Streaming Services
Image Source: sidneyblaylockjr

The on-demand entertainment landscape is changing. Cord cutting no longer presents the bargain it once did, and bundling continues to look like a more practical and perhaps more appealing option.

Cutting the Cord

For years, consumers and consumer advocates demanded that cable television transition to an a la carte menu. That demand largely fell on deaf ears because the cable providers did not have the power. The media companies had the real power and did not have much incentive to make the switch.

When cord cutting or cutting cable was still considered a new frontier, it was an easy decision for many to make the decision. Subscribing to Netflix and Hulu was rather cheap and gave viewers access to most of what they wanted. The media companies had lost power, but there was money to be made in this new landscape. Soon, we had entered into another Golden Age of Television, and soon after that, there was a deluge of high-quality content not just from Netflix but by more than a half dozen providers just like it. If you wanted to keep up, cord cutting just got a lot more expensive or became a much bigger hassle.

Reversing the Great Unbundling

If you are among the early cord cutters, you have probably found ways to navigate this decentralized mess. It has become quite common, for instance, for households to maintain two streaming services but to rotate their options in and out each month. For many consumers, however, that is not practical or too much of a hassle. For that group, the bundled plans offered by cable seem better in concept, and there have already been stirrings within the industry itself to move in that direction. Disney is already doing it for its own content offering a compelling bundle of Sling TV, Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+.

Rebundling Is Inevitable

According to some industry experts, the current situation is unsustainable and that rebundling is the inevitable path forward. But even if you agree with the inevitably, there is a vastness in which it may potentially unfold. Some people imagine independent platform providers—like a cable television provider—that give you a unified portal to the many different streaming providers for a monthly fee. That scenario requires medica companies giving up power for the betterment of the industry.

Another and perhaps more cynical perspective is that companies like Disney+ will purchase other streaming services in order to bring them under their unbundle. Something similar is occurring in the video game space where Microsoft is increasing the value and appeal of its Game Pass—a Netflix-like subscription for video games—by buying studios that make popular games. Still, it seems highly unlikely that anyone buys out Netflix, Disney+ or Prime Video. There are at least three primary players. Apple+ is a potentially disruptive force. Viacom could bundle Showtime with Paramount+.

Bang for the Buck

Streaming still provides excellent bang for the buck. Prices are rising, but if you are willing to manage the system, you can still squeeze incredible value out of it. But as everything becomes more bundled, will cable TV become an attractive option once again? At one point, some claimed cable TV was dead. Industry estimates now expect it to plateau at about 60 million viewers, but there may be a real opportunity here for cable and even satellite TV to rebound and compete with the streaming services.

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