The Week in Streaming: Numbers and Niche Services

Want to know why I write this column for streamers each week? Because there are about seven million of you, myself included! At least that’s the numbers were getting from a recent report from Strategy Analytics. In its review of streaming services, Strategy Analytics reports that there are about seven million subscribers to the seven major streaming service providers: Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, YouTube, fuboTV, and Philo. The number of viewers is not evenly or equally distributed among these streaming providers, however. Some are doing better than others, which is always the case in a busy marketplace.

Here are the latest subscriber counts for the top seven streaming services, according to Strategy Analytics:

  • 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.

That Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW take the top two spots respectively is no surprise to anyone here at the Solid Signal blog. We’ve been telling you for months that that these two streaming service providers are the biggest in terms of viewers. We’ve also told you why that is. For those who’d like a refresher course, it all comes down to what these two have to offer when compared to the rest:

  1. Each service is owned and operated by a satellite TV entertainment giant. Sling TV is a DISH product, while DIRECTV NOW nestles comfortably beneath AT&T’s rather large umbrella.
  2. Both streaming services offer a huge selection of national programming that includes entertainment, sports, weather, and news.
  3. DISH and AT&T have been scarfing up local TV affiliates on both coasts and everywhere else in the middle. This is proof positive that most streamers still love their local TV stations.

The Strategy Analytics report came up with some interesting statistics about cord-cutting and streaming. According to the reports, there are about 30 million households in the U.S. have cut the cord, yet only about seven million of these cord-cutters subscribe to a live streaming service. Some industry pundits say that this means the majority of these cord-cutters don’t need a streaming service. I say, “Not so fast, buddy. You might be missing some important data here.”

Here are some factors that I think contribute to the discrepancy between antenna cord-cutters and those who stream:

  1. Many seniors are cutting the cord and opting for a TV antenna because it’s technology they know and understand. For some, streaming technology might be too new and confusing.
  2. Cord-cutters in the 18-25 range who aren’t living with their parents might not be able to afford a streaming device. Some of these Millennials are working two jobs just to barely make ends meet, so streaming would be a frivolity they can’t afford… yet.
  3. Some cord-cutter households might purchase a streaming package for their children’s phones or devices while mom and dad just watch antenna TV. These scenarios might or might not count in Strategy Analytics’ data.
  4. Many college students have cut the cord and stream their favorite shows. Since many of them live in a dorm room, they don’t count as a “household” in the report.

Look, I’m willing to believe that more cord-cutters use an antenna than stream. I only have a problem with hasty conclusions being drawn from a set of data. Personally, I think the two compliment each other perfectly, despite the overlap of live TV streaming of local affiliates. I’m not the only one in my home. There’s Mrs. Buckler, of course, and our two sons, “Hunter” and “Gatherer.” (Actually, their names are Jake Jr. and Patrick, but Stuart Sweet insists on calling them Hunter and Gatherer.) Any house with this many people – all with differing TV tastes – needs more than one way to watch their favorite shows. If you can, why not have both?

NickSplat Niche Streaming Service Launches

NickSplat is the latest niche channel to come to AT&T’s streaming services by way of VRV. This service is a Millennial-focused streaming channel filled with 1990s-era children’s programs and anime. It’s similar to the AT&T-owned Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, and other titles. Given that premise, NickSplat fits right into VRV’s targeted programming. It lets viewers watch man 1990s-era Nickelodeon titles that include:

  • Aahhh!!! Real Monsters
  • All That
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  • CatDog
  • Clarissa Explains It All
  • Doug
  • Kenan & Kel
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple
  • Rocko’s Modern Life
  • The Angry Beavers
  • The Wild Thornberrys

If these and other 90s Nickelodeon shows are your thing, you must subscribe to VRV for $9.99 per month. That might be a bit steep for a service that offers about 30 series. It’s not known whether NickSplat subscribers will also get access to some or all of the rest of VRV’s programming. If so, that would definitely be the better value.

Not for nothing, but this whole “classic Nickelodeon” stuff really chaps my suede! These shows, which came out during the 1990s, are now considered “classic.” Seriously? Were my twenties really so long ago that now everything from that era is considered “old?” I guess so… and it irks me.

Disney’s New Streaming Service is Called Disney Play

Disney’s upcoming streaming service has a name, and that name is Disney Play. This niche streaming service is set to release sometime in 2019. In fact, Disney CEO Bob Iger told Variety magazine that the streaming service will be the company’s “biggest priority” next year. As we’ve reported before, some reports suggest that this service could be as low as $5/month.

According to Bob Iger, Disney is planning on making new original shows based on Disney properties like “Monsters Inc.” and “High School Musical.” Although not mentioned during the earnings call, we already know two Star Wars shows are also in the works. Disney is hoping they can use their Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm libraries, along with NatGeo to build on an already extensive library of shows and movies from Disney.

Disney plans for original shows based on popular franchises such as Monsters Inc. and High School Musical. Two Star Wars shows are also rumored to be in the works. Disney also plans to build its library with Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and NatGeo content. All of this should be good news for everyone who loves the “Magic Kingdom’s” content.

Opinions on Disney Play, as we now know it, vary at the Solid Signal blog. My colleague Stuart Sweet literally believes that a Disney streaming service is the last straw. He believes this and other niche streaming services will drive streaming costs up to and maybe beyond that of cable TV. I disagree with him. (Big shock, I know.) I believe that if Disney can truly keep this service to $5/month, and still provide quality content, they’ll have a winner.

Honestly, Stuart! Adding Disney Play to a streaming package shouldn’t be enough to break the average American’s budget. That’s an extra $60/year… roughly the same amount I’d pay to take my family to Buffalo Wild Wings. (Jake Jr. really digs those super duper, double nuclear, 10,000 Scoville, red-hot habanero chicken wings, man!)

Streamers, I’ve Said This Before…

Niche streaming services are not the future of streaming. These channels aren’t going to ruin streaming either. If specialized content providers keep monthly rates under $10, everything will be fine. This is affordable enough for the average person to add to their streaming package. As far as I’m concerned, this is the point. NickSplat and Disney Play won’t provide the news, sports, and weather you get from other channels. But you don’t have to my word for it. You could always accept Stuart Sweet’s outlook on this issue. If you do, keep in mind that his next blog post aims to convince you that the sky is falling!

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.