On 1 December, The New York Times published a special section entitled, 'The Future Is Streaming' and while I don’t dispute that notion and the articles contained within are worth a read, the section doesn’t cover what’s about to happen – the next exercise in bundling.
The pendulum has swung back-and-forth a few times over the past decade or two where we’ve seen packaging of services and bundling, tearing apart and unbundling. We’ve already seen it in music (albums to iTunes to streaming audio), news (print subscriptions to free digital and platforms like Flipboard to digital subscriptions) and cinema/video content and even starting to see it take root in the video gaming world. However, industry disruption and chaos are so broad, bundling will not just impact streaming, it will, without a doubt, be multimedia.
Now I don’t have a crystal ball but if we take a look at what’s happening across just three tech giants, I think you’ll start to see my point.
Apple, which has long strived for walled garden dominance, is an easy place to start. Not surprisingly, they have four out of the four segments that I listed above – Apple Music, Apple News+ (launched March 2019), and AppleTV+ and Apple Arcade, both of which just launched this Fall. Steaming video could be getting all the trade media attention at the moment because this is where the money is being spent to license and develop content (Apple reportedly spending more than $6 billion on original content), but make no mistake, these services, while separate, could very easily be packaged and sold as a multimedia bundle.
Next up, Google, which also not surprisingly has those same four bases covered as well. YouTube itself doesn’t necessarily compare apples-to-apples to most streaming content services, but YouTubeTV, a virtual-MVPD which operates as cable service over the internet, gets awfully close. Then, of course, they have Subscribe with Google and Google Play Music, but also the recent addition of Stadia, their cloud game-streaming platform. Considering Google’s inclination to tie their services together through single sign-on and other cross-functionalities, I would not even blink an eye if I saw an announcement of a multimedia bundle from Google offered soon.
Last, but not least is the behemoth Amazon, which has extended its strategy of succeeding at books and tackling every category known to mankind, into the realm of media offerings on par with, or exceeding everything else available. From Amazon Prime Video to Prime Video Channels to Amazon Music Unlimited to Kindle Unlimited and Audible to its recently purchased Twitch, the tech giant has actually already begun to bundle Prime Video and Twitch into their Prime subscription. It would not be much of a stretch to imagine Amazon adding Amazon Music Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited and Audible to that bundle as well.
I could underscore the same argument with Facebook via Watch, but I think I’ve made my point.
The bottom line is this. Gallons of ink have been spilled writing about the wars heating up in the streaming world, and for good reason – streaming is what consumers want because it’s super convenient. So, the coverage has been largely focused on content rights, content costs, licensing and consolidation. But what’s missing here is that consumers don’t just want streaming content – they want streaming everything – video, books, music, games, etc.
Sure, the largest U.S. media conglomerates such as Comcast NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, AT&T Time Warner and Sony have always owned a smattering of different media vehicles, but thus far none have stepped up and capitalized on what could be the largest opportunity in the media world to date. Gobs of research has already shown a not surprisingly low consumer threshold for subscriptions. So, the real opportunity is not who wins the streaming wars, but rather who will be able to bundle what consumers really what into an attractive, reasonably-priced package that wins the day.
There is an incredible amount of potential revenue at stake and one can’t do any more than speculate who will come out on top. However, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google have the deep pocket luxury of being able to offer portions of their content as loss leaders in the short term, and my money is on them. Buckle up, the ride has just begun.
Kevin Hill is founder and chief executive officer of VuPulse.