Which Streaming Services May Be Merged, Acquired, Shut Down Next?
The saturation of the streaming industry has received a lot of attention in 2022, and with good cause. The streaming market has climbed to over 300 individual direct-to-consumer services, and the days of investors flinging cash at a streaming platform simply for reporting a hearty number of new subscribers each quarter are over.
Former Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar shared his thoughts on the crowded marketplace in a recent op-ed. In that piece, Kilar made clear he thought the industry was due to be consolidated, and that many services would become “business casualties” in the next two years.
But which services are definitely sticking around, and which have the best chance of being acquired by another service, or simply shutting their doors? The Streamable did a similar list six months ago, but so much has changed over the past half year, that following Kilar’s comments, it felt like a good time to revisit.
AMC+ | Acorn TV | ALLBLK | Shudder | Sundance Now
The AMC Networks’ streaming services are in quite a bit of trouble heading into 2023. The five services owned by AMC total just over 11 million subscribers, which is not nearly enough to account for the losses that the company is seeing on the linear cable side of its operations.
It also does not help that many of these streaming services feature niche content that is unlikely to draw big numbers of paying subscribers.
Those losses contributed to the recent departure of CEO Christina Spade, the company’s third CEO to leave in 15 months. The same day that Spade announced her resignation, AMC chairman James Dolan said “the mechanisms for the monetization of content are in disarray” at the company. Dolan has now been installed as the interim CEO of AMC.
Essentially, AMC has dwindling cash and very few places to turn in which to get more. Its tentpole shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul” have ended and while they continue to pump out well-received programs, nothing has quite captured the cultural conversation just yet.
The writing seems to be on the wall for the AMC family of streaming services, and it would be shocking if they survived the next 24 months.
AMC Streamers Odds of Survival: 25%
Apple TV+ is still one of the most intriguing streaming services on the market. Despite a recent price increase, at $6.99 per month for ad-free streaming, it’s one of the cheapest options available. The service doesn’t boast a huge amount of tentpole intellectual property titles like other streamers do, but its originals are well-regarded. Apple TV+ has also been unintimidated by the prospect of adding live sports, striking a deal this year to stream every Major League Soccer game for the next 10 years on its service.
Similar to Prime Video, Apple TV+ is so embedded within a larger company with multiple revenue streams that its demise in the next two years is essentially impossible. Whether it can iron out its differences of opinion with the NFL and get a deal done for the out-of-market games package NFL Sunday Ticket is less certain, but don’t expect Apple TV+ to disappear any time soon.
Apple TV+ Odds of Survival: 100%
There’s been some trouble in the air around the House of Mouse recently. The company recently made an abrupt change in CEOs from Bob Chapek to Bob Iger, indicating its board was not happy with Chapek’s decisions that led to a $1.5 billion loss for Disney’s streaming segment in the third quarter of 2022.
Still, Disney is arguably the most recognizable brand in the world, and has multiple revenue streams from its theatrical and broadcast businesses, theme parks, streaming, and merchandising. The company is preparing to roll out its own ad-supported plan for Disney+ this week, giving it a way to further monetize its over 164 million global users.
Disney+ Odds of Survival: 100%
HBO Max | discovery+
This is where the conversation turns truly fascinating. HBO is still a well-recognized and well-regarded premium television brand, at least by consumer standards. But current Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav came into the job with a mandate to save the company money and make it profitable again, and he’s been more than willing to go scorched earth in cutting content on HBO Max to achieve those goals.
Right now, the company is focused on merging HBO Max with its other streaming service discovery+ in spring of 2023. The hope is that the merger will help WBD better monetize its streaming subscribers, as well as reduce friction between the services.
But what if the merger ends in disaster and the two very different WBD streaming clientele don’t like the unified service? Could we see the recently merged Warner Bros. Discovery acquired by another major media conglomerate? Comcast has been rumored to be interested in acquiring WBD in the recent past. If things turn rocky after the debut of the combined WBD service that will likely be known as “Max,” those rumors could become more concrete when regulatory restrictions are lifted in 2024.
HBO Max, discovery+ Odds of Survival: 70%
Hulu is a difficult platform to predict the future of, simply because so much of its present is uncertain. To start, the service is owned by two different companies: 66% by Disney, 33% by Comcast. Due to messy contractual agreements, Disney is expected to buy Comcast’s stake by the end of 2024, an expectation that remains despite the change in CEOs at Disney.
What will happen with the service then is extremely dependent on the corporate vision for the service inside the larger Disney apparatus. Former Disney chief Bob Chapek wanted to merge Hulu with Disney+, but the newly returned CEO Bob Iger has always seen Disney+ as a place for family-friendly content.
Hulu’s original shows are well regarded by fans, making it clear that Hulu has a strong brand that could continue to stand alone when Disney owns it outright, but in most regions of the world, that content is found either on Disney+ or in siloed tiles on the Disney+ app.
The situation with Hulu will bear watching in the next year, but reports of its demise as an individual service may have been premature.
Hulu Odds of Survival: 40%
The world’s largest streaming service has rebounded fairly nicely from a very difficult start to the year, which saw it lose subscribers two quarters in a row. The company is gaining new customers once again, and recently launched its new ad-supported plan for $6.99 per month.
With well over 223 million global subscribers, and a popular content library that continuously adds well-liked original shows, Netflix shouldn’t have to make many drastic changes in the coming years to remain strong.
Netflix Odds of Survival: 100%
The service had a strong Q3, hitting 46 million global subscribers, plus 72 million monthly active users for its free TV streaming service Pluto TV. It will also be getting the top box office movie of the year “Top Gun: Maverick” on Dec. 22.
Throughout 2022, there have been persistent speculation that Paramount Global could be for sale. From CEO Bob Bakish hinting at it in the spring to investor Warren Buffett investing heavily in the fall, driving investors to think that something could happen sooner or later. However, even if the studio is purchased, that doesn’t mean that Paramount+ would close up shop. But, if another media entity does the buying, the Paramount streaming services could be folded into a current rival service.
Paramount Global boasts a large library filled with well-loved intellectual properties, including Star Trek, Halo, the “Sheridan-verse,” and multiple inter-connected television series. All of that would be incredibly attractive to a company looking to bulk up its content offerings.
Paramount+ Odds of Survival: 85%
Peacock started fairly late in the streaming game, launching in April 2020. However, the service has seen slow growth since then, starting 2022 with just 9 million paid subscribers. That number doesn’t account for the number of users that get Peacock for free with a subscription to Comcast’s Xfinity cable and internet services, but it’s still a far cry from the giants in the industry.
However, 2022 was a big year for Peacock. The service doubled its number of paid subscribers to 18 million this year alone, and more importantly is able to claim a monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) near $10, despite the fact that the top subscription tier is just $9.99 per month. Thanks to the platform’s dual subscription and ad-supported models, NBCUniversal has the opportunity to make money via multiple avenues, pushing its revenue higher.
Peacock also added live streams of local NBC stations for Peacock Premium Plus users in 210 markets this year. Paramount+ has become incredibly popular amongst cord-cutters thanks in large part to its addition of local CBS station live streams, so the move will likely bring even more subscribers to Peacock soon.
Peacock Odds of Survival: 90%
Although Prime Video doesn’t release quarterly subscriber numbers, it’s hard to view 2022 as anything but a success for the platform. According to independent analysts, the company has more U.S. subscribers than Netflix. Prime Video saw record-breaking audiences for its show “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” and has become the exclusive home of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” in 2022.
What’s more important to Prime Video from a survival standpoint is that it is irrevocably tied to Amazon and its myriad revenue streams. That means that Amazon is not solely focused on user numbers when it comes to determining what Prime Video success looks like. Instead, it is part of a larger ecosystem that helps drive online retail sales, Amazon Prime Memberships, and much more.