Four services join streaming wars

NEW YORK • In 2007, people rolled their eyes when Netflix decided to stream movies rather than just mail them DVDs. But fast-forward about a decade and it is hard to recall when folk were not binge-watching Stranger Things (2016 to present) or sharing streaming-service passwords.

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other streaming apps now generate a lot of original content - 160 scripted shows, almost a third of the record 495 on all of television, according to FX Networks Research.

Thirty-three million Americans cut the cord on cable last year, so it is no surprise that more companies want in on the streaming game.

Here are some of the new streaming options in America.

DISNEY+

Strategy: Disney owns your childhood and probably your present and future, so it is betting you will pay for your favourite shows and movies

Cost: Supposedly lower than Netflix's US$8 (S$10.85) to US$14 monthly fee

With so many brands under the Disney umbrella, it would probably be easier to name franchises that do not belong to the House of Mouse.

From powerhouses such as Star Wars and Marvel to animated classics such as The Lion King (1994), Disney has a massive stable of content to attract subscribers to Disney+. It will also be creating shows.

Netflix has a lot to lose in this competition. Disney content makes up 8 to 12 per cent of Netflix's total viewership in the United States, according to video-measurement firm 7Park Data.

Once the distribution deals end, all that content will be available only on Disney+, as will upcoming releases such as Captain Marvel.

APPLE

Strategy: You get free shows

Cost: Zero if you own an Apple device

Apple's upcoming service will offer original content and access to existing services such as HBO. What is key is its plan to roll out original content free to Apple device users.

Apple now offers shows such as Carpool Karaoke behind a paywall, but the upcoming TV app will come pre-installed.

But since its content is free, Apple has to be extra careful with what it produces - which is why it is reportedly focusing on PG-rated shows.

Tie-ups include one with media mogul Oprah Winfrey to create shows, while director Steven Spielberg's Amblin Television and NBCUniversal will partner Apple to reboot his 1980s anthology series, Amazing Stories.

FACEBOOK WATCH

Strategy: Facebook knows everything about you. Now it is using that information to personalise your viewing experience

Cost: Free

Video suggestions are based on what you and your friends are already watching. You can also organise a Watch Party if you are the administrator of a Facebook group.

Facebook is betting big on its streaming platform - it was expected to spend US$1 billion to US$2 billion on original content last year and renewed four of its original series for this year.

DC UNIVERSE

Strategy: It has TV shows, movies, comics, an encyclopaedia, a shop, forums and basically all the content a comics fan could want

Cost: US$7.99 a month or US$74.99 a year

DC Universe, which launched in September last year, is primarily for comics and superhero fans.

DC Universe has already debuted one original show - Titans - and has plans for more.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2019, with the headline 'Four services join streaming wars'. Print Edition | Subscribe