Back in early 2014 that HBO reps leaked one of the worst-kept secrets of the day: HBO was working on a standalone service. That service became HBO NOW, and in just a few months we expect it to morph into HBO Max.
Really, it was just six years ago.
We tend to think that things don’t change much. Our lives are the same from day to day. Maybe you’re still wearing clothes you bought six years ago. Maybe music from 2014 still seems fresh or even strangely “beyond.” Maybe you still haven’t even unwrapped a gift you got in 2014. It wasn’t that long ago.
And yet, in 2014 most people had barely started streaming. Netflix was still bundling disc and streaming together, and Hulu was still known as that place you went to stream that thing you forgot to record.
2014 was the year of iPhone 6, one of the least inspired versions of the phone (although at least you could get it in a larger size.) It was also the year for the Galaxy S5, which was the first waterproof version. Today those devices seem hopelessly outdated.
In 2014 you wouldn’t dream of buying a 4K TV unless you had $30,000 lying around. Which is ok since no one had any 4K content. DIRECTV’s class-leading live 4K broadcasts wouldn’t even start for another two years.
And yet all the pieces were beginning to come together.
In 2014 we knew where it was all going. HBO GO, the streaming companion to HBO, had been around for several years and was one of several streaming companion apps available back then. ESPN GO was another one, and it had been out for a while at that point. DIRECTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket app was going strong, and the DIRECTV App for phones and tablets had turned into a content powerhouse with the introduction of DIRECTV Everywhere in 2012. So we knew even back then about the streaming future. We just weren’t sure if we had the bandwidth on our phones to handle it.
So if we look at what’s changed since 2014, can we guess what will happen in 2026?
Well based on the trends, I’d say we’ll have 100″ TVs for under $500 and they’ll be 8K or better. It won’t matter because we’ll actually have folding phones that work. They’ll give us tablet-sized screens with pocket-sized devices. We’ll pay through the nose for them but we won’t care.
And I predict that a lot more stuff will actually be a-la-carte. In 2014 you really had only one or two sources for all the video entertainment you could want. It was literally impossible to spend more than $30 a month for streaming.
I think in 2026 some of us will spend close to $120 a month for all-you-can-eat streaming services. But most of us will stream with limited commercials on packages that total under $40 a month. We’ll pay individually for the movies or limited series we want. I expect it to be a low-priced model where movies are under $5 and series are under $10. You’ll probably pay about another $25 a month for that.
And, maybe this is controversial, I think there will be a new package called HBO SUPERMAX which will make HBO Max seem boring by comparison. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait.