We’ve been seeing the effects of the streaming wars on major entertainment companies for some time now, and there isn’t one single company that isn’t considering making changes to keep up with – or even to overtake – the competition. Netflix remains unrivaled in its dominant position, but the arrival of Disney Plus on the scene at the end of last year changed the game for everybody. Some of the smaller streaming services are still coming to terms with that change – and now CBS All Access has responded by massively expanding its range of services.
Thinking logically, there will eventually come a point when the point of saturation is reached with the range of streaming services available to the public. Originally, subscribing to a service like Netflix saved people money because it was cheaper than cable television. Now, with most people holding multiple subscriptions, the cost of the combined packages works out as equal to – if not more than – the cost of cable television. Not every company will survive the streaming wars, and so those that want to are going to have to offer the public the best possible proposition in order to stay afloat.
We’ve seen this happen before with the concept of using the internet to provide multiple forms of the same media under a single roof. It’s the same principle that drives the creation of online slots websites. The model of taking casino entertainment and putting hundreds of different games together on a single website has made big money for online slots and casino companies, but those that wish to prosper have since added additional games like poker, slot UK and roulette to their offering to stay ahead of their rivals. A television network might not be able to offer quite the same range of different products that an online slots website can, but they can still squeeze their rivals out of the market by buying up all of the most popular shows.
In the case of Viacom – the company behind CBS All Access – this amounts to a near-total redesign of the current service. They’ve just had their best-ever streaming quarter, but for the year ahead, they’re looking to add more than thirty thousand episodes of popular television shows to their back catalog to reinforce their current range of brand-new original shows. They have excellent resources to draw on for this operation, as the company owns MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and a range of other channels who so far haven’t made their archive available for streaming and public consumption. Viacom sees its service as the ultimate ‘house of brands’ (their own words, not ours), and showcasing content from every service they own will be key to helping the public to see the platform in the same light.
In recent times, the impressive growth of the ‘All Access’ service has been helped along by fans of science fiction. Although the new ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ show hasn’t met with the approval of all ‘Star Trek’ fans, it’s proved to be popular enough to drive subscriptions and interest for the service. A third season of the show will air later in 2020. More recently it’s had a new wave of customers and subscriptions brought to the platform by the more popular ‘Star Trek: Picard,’ with the company cleverly offering a free month’s subscription to fans who wanted to binge-watch the whole season before the airing of the final episode. With a second season of the show already ordered, the hope is that the new customers who came for the first season will stick around for the second, and perhaps even watch the third season of ‘Discovery’ while they’re waiting.
Television shows will keep viewers around from week to week and engage them in the short term, but research has shown that while people might come to a service for a show they’re interested in, they’re more likely to stick around for the movies. Fortunately for Viacom, they have an ace up their sleeve in that respect, too – an ace that comes in the shape of the Paramount library. It’s understood that the company is in the process of digitizing and uploading more than one thousand Paramount movies, with the Tom Cruise-led ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise likely to be a key part of the new offering. Sports fans have reason to be optimistic too, as the service can I theory take content from more than 200 CBS affiliates to show golf, basketball, football, soccer, and other sports.
By the end of 2019, it was understood that the number of All Access subscribers had risen above the 13.5 million mark for the first time. As impressive as that might sound, it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the fifty million people who’ve taken out Disney Plus subscriptions, and the more than 100 million who count themselves as Netflix subscribers. It’s impossible for CBS to rival those figures unless it makes itself available internationally – something that’s also believed to be on the agenda for either late 2020 or early 2021. At present, original shows created by CBS All Access are divided between Netflix and Amazon Prime in Europe. Taking the rights to those shows back might involve complicated negotiations and settlement payments between Viacom and its rivals, but that’s a matter for them to worry about in the future as opposed to now.
The one thing we can definitely say about this latest development in the streaming wars is that it’s likely to be good news for customers in the long run. The more competing companies there are, the more intense the price war between those companies will be. For the buyer, that means an ever-increasing amount of content available for an ever-decreasing price. The pattern probably isn’t sustainable – and at least one of the small-to-medium sized players will likely be squeezed out of the game sooner rather than later – but for now, it’s never been easier to have access to all of your favorite shows from the past at the click of a button – and some of the shows that are likely to become your favorites in the future, too.
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