2018: The Year in Streaming

This year in streaming started out great across the big streaming services. Mrs. Buckler and I enjoyed many great original programs during the beginning of the year. By about the middle of the year, the streaming world seemed to go into utter chaos. Some niche channels disappeared while others were made available, while new streaming services came to life. There were even some big announcements that could turn out to be game changers down there road. There was some disappointment along the way, too. Let’s take a look at why the year in streaming 2018 is more than likely a set up for some big things next year.

The Streaming Statistics for 2018

One of the biggest things to emerge out of 2018 was the streaming services’ subscription numbers. In September, we released the findings of Strategy Analytics’ report on the streaming world. First and foremost, the company estimated that there are about seven million streamers in the country, and the lion’s share of streaming business is done through the seven major streaming service providers: Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, YouTube, fuboTV, and Philo. Here are Strategy Analytics’ subscriber counts for those top streaming services as of September 2018:

  • Sling TV: 2.34 million
  • DIRECTV NOW: 1.8 million
  • Hulu: 995,000
  • PlayStation Vue: 745,000
  • YouTube TV: 410,000
  • fuboTV: 325,000
  • Philo: 150,000

*Note: Strategy Analytics reports that some of these numbers are “educated guesses” based on multiple factors.

We weren’t surprised that Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW were the gold and silver medal winners, respectively, of the “streaming Olympics.” Both service is owned by a satellite TV giant (DISH and DIRECTV). Both services offer a huge selection of national programming that includes entertainment, sports, weather, and news. Also, DISH and AT&T have been scarfing up local TV affiliates across the country.

Diverse Original Programming Game

There were a lot of great original programming in 2018. What was even more encouraging was that these programs weren’t solely on Netflix, the “king of original content.” After this year, I can’t honestly say that the big red streaming service even holds that title anymore. It’s not that Netflix’s originals aren’t good, it’s just that they’re not the only game in town anymore. You’ll see that when you take a quick look at some of the original programming that Mrs. Buckler and I enjoyed this year:

Show Title Series or Show Streaming Service Air Date Did We Enjoy It? Renewed?
The Frozen Dead Series Netflix January 1, 2018 Yes Unknown
The Open House Show Netflix January 19, 2018 No N/A
Britannia Series Amazon Prime January 26, 2018 Yes Unknown
Sneaky Pete (Season 2) Series Amazon Prime March 9, 2018 Yes Yes
Bosch (Season 4) Series Amazon Prime April 13, 2018 Yes Yes
The Affair (Season 4) Series Showtime June 17, 2018 Yes Yes
Goliath (Season 2) Series Amazon Prime June 15, 2018 Yes Yes
Ozark (Season 2) Series Netflix August 31, 2018 Yes Yes
Hold the Dark Show Netflix September 28, 2018 Yes N/A
The Man in the High Castle (Season 3) Series Amazon Prime October 5, 2018 Yes Yes
1983 Series Netflix November 30, 2018 Yes Unknown

I think it’s only right to mention that Mrs. Buckler and I are also enjoying Bravo’s Dirty John original series. Yes, I know that watching a cable TV show is NOT streaming, but that just underscores my point that Netflix doesn’t have a monopoly on compelling original content. There is so much great programming from a multitude of sources out there to enjoy.

“Niche Streaming Services”

I put that in quotes because it’s a term I came up with. I use it to refer to streaming channels that offer specialized or “niche” content. Perhaps the best example of this concept would be the Disney Play and Hallmark streaming services typically cost $10 or less per month, and streamers typically add these channels to their DIRECTV NOW and other streaming service packages. It seems like 2018 was the year for these unique streaming channels. Some went away, new ones were created, and others were merged and purchased by communications companies such as AT&T and others.

This year was the year for niche streaming services. Some went away, others were added, and still others were announced. There literally are too many to keep track of here, but you might remember names such as Crunchyroll, NickSplat, and Warner Media. Suffice to say, streamers have plenty of these options to choose from. This availability could present a problem with these streaming services, though.

While I’m generally was supportive of the niche streaming concept, it has the potential of becoming expensive. Even at $10/month per channel, how many of these services are people willing to pay for? If viewers get too many, their costs could get as high as $100/month. That more or less defeats the entire purpose of streaming as a way of cutting the cord and saving money. As we head into 2019, it’s something I plan to keep a close eye on.

The Biggest Disappointment in Streaming…

… The delaying of Stranger Things season three. The first two seasons of Netflix’s Stranger Things were released roughly one year apart. Hardcore fans were expecting a fall release for season three only to find out that it got pushed to summer 2019. It was a huge blow for the millions of people who have fallen in love with the homage to 1980s thriller and horror films.

Will I still watch Stranger Things season three? Of course. But, as I’ve stated earlier this year, it had better be good or the show could lose me as a fan. (Yeah, I said it.) If there’s another trend that was popular in 2018, it’s that streamers will abandon any series that jumps the shark. I’m living proof of that. I dumped both Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead this year because of shoddy writing and terrible character development. I’ll do the same if the Duffer brothers and Netflix louse up the third season of Stranger Things.

Excited About the Future of Streaming

So, 2018 has been an up and down year in streaming, though it was more up than otherwise. I also think that this will be evened out in 2019. The major streaming service providers will continue to make so many great original movies and series, which gives viewers choices. If a show jumps the shark, it won’t be so devastating because there are so many other choices to enjoy. This increases exponentially for those streamers who subscribe to any niche steaming channels, many of which are set to debut in 2019.

I’d like to make more predictions for streaming in the year of 2019, but I have no idea what’s coming down the pike. While I don’t need a crystal ball to say we’ll get new original programming. That’s a no brainer. The innovations and advancements in streaming communications and technology, however, won’t be so easy to predict. If I have to say something, I would say, “Expect huge evolutions going forward.” Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that.

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.