OPINION: Disney’s new streaming service is the last straw

You’ve probably read the news. Disney is ending its relatively short relationship with Netflix and starting its own streaming service sometime in 2019. Personally, I think it’s just a bridge too far. This might be the tipping point that makes people realize that streaming can actually cost more than cable or satellite.

Actually, I think CBS All Access, the streaming service that will be required to watch the next Star Trek series, might have already crossed that bridge. Millions will no doubt pay the ransom to see the new series, paying essentially the same rate that they pay for all of Netflix’s streaming content just to get one show ($6 a month for CBS, $8 a month for Netflix.) CBS is the lone holdout to the partnership that created and sustains Hulu as a source for thousands of programs across multiple networks. They don’t disclose subscriber numbers, but certainly if you’re a streaming fan who loves The Big Bang Theory, you’re already paying CBS.

We are in a very bad place with streaming, my friends, mark my words. This latest announcement from Disney proves it to me. We’re getting to the point where you’ll end up paying $60 a month or more for streaming services, just so you can get the new programs you care about, and I suspect that if you want to get any newer content, you’ll end up paying even more.

At that point you’re probably better off taking the triple play deal from your cable or satellite provider and calling it a day. More likely though, you’ll start to see a new rise in pirated content. Other than high profile cases like the recent HBO hack, you don’t hear a lot about pirated TV, because honestly the price is right. There’s so much good stuff out there and it just isn’t that expensive. Why bother pirating it? I suspect that viewpoint will end if you have to shell out $12 a month for this one, $9 a month for that one, and $8 a month for the other one just so you can see all the shows everyone is talking about.

Folks, I’m not saying piracy is good, but look at the last 20 years — every time something got too expensive, it got pirated. People downloaded music illegally, copied DVDs, and even ripped content from YouTube. People want their content and the people who make that content have gotten very rich providing it. When people sense unfairness and imbalance, they act, and if they don’t see any consequence to their actions, they’ll act illegally. It’s not right, but it’s true. You know it.

So now, if you have kids or if you’re just a fan of old cartoons and other Disney content, you’ll end up shelling out even more, getting another app, and it will be just another bite out of your bank account. At first you won’t notice but after your kid is done watching Moana for the 950th time you’ll begin to wonder why you’re paying for this tiny little torture. The whole streaming ecosystem could come tumbling down.

That would be a shame, because there’s just so much good stuff out there and the pricing is really reasonable. Practically no one buys physical discs anymore, and while that arrangement leaves the purchaser with nothing of real value to resell or pass on, everyone is fine with that. Personally I don’t hear stories of any company, whether it’s Netflix or anyone else, claiming they’ve fallen on hard times because they can’t charge enough for the content they’re creating, and on the other hand the “streaming economy” seems to be growing more healthy than ever before.

The big loser here has to be Netflix. The company’s high on life now with hits like Orange is the New Black propping it up, but it wasn’t that long ago its stock took a huge tumble as it ham-handedly tried to offload its DVD business before people were ready. I have complained before on this blog that Netflix is dropping in value as it reduces the amount of content it has and focuses on a wide spectrum of shows that don’t do a good job defining it as a content provider. Losing Disney is a big shock for them, as they have spent the last several years producing Marvel spinoff content. (Marvel is a subsidiary of Disney, and while both companies say Netflix-produced content will stay on Netflix, don’t count on any more Marvel shows from here on in.)

Perhaps in the future Netflix will completely implode, like Blockbuster before it. Perhaps its time as a go-to destination for an evening of entertainment has passed. I’m fine with that. I’m more worried that the whole streaming model is doomed if we’re just going to be asked to pay more and more, over and over, for an ever-shrinking sliver of content. What’s next, a monthly service that only shows you the first third of every show and charges you to continue?

Don’t laugh, they could do that. And then you’ll blame me.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.