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5 Bold Predictions for Streaming Services in 2022

Ben Bowman

Over the last few years, the streaming industry has undergone a tremendous upheaval. New players are moving aggressively to swipe market share from Netflix while consumers have more choice than ever. Using the past as prologue, we can make some bold predictions for the year to come.

1. Paramount+ Will Grow More Than Any Other Service

Paramount+ had a troubled rollout. Initially branded “CBS All Access,” it got a new identity in March 2021. As is the case with many launches, it was more sizzle than steak. With no blockbuster titles, Paramount+ stumbled around while its big movie franchises sat out of theaters.

But there have been encouraging signs of life. Paramount+ may have cracked the code for streaming vs. theatrical releases, choosing a simultaneous release for family films, while putting adult-skewing films in theaters only. That reduces piracy on the marquee titles while extracting the biggest possible box office.

Paramount+ will get a major boost from two Tom Cruise vehicles in 2022: “Top Gun: Maverick” and the next “Mission: Impossible” movie. The service is also doubling down on works from one of its most popular behind-the-scenes talents: “Yellowstone” co-creator Taylor Sheridan. Shows like “Mayor of Kingstown” and the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” look to be the kind of titles that can make waves. Throw in an upcoming Sylvester Stallone mob drama (“Kansas City,” also from Sheridan) and Paramount+’s Mandalorian (Halo), and Paramount+ appears to have a winning formula.

The upcoming ViacomCBS budget also seems tilted in favor of Paramount+. We’ve heard nothing about an increased output of adult fare for Showtime, Noggin seems adrift on older episodes of Nickelodeon shows, and Pluto TV is essentially an re-purposed content from elsewhere. Network CBS has settled on its popular franchise procedural dramas and its assembly line sitcom strategy. With those boxes checked off and a new, youth-focused CEO running Paramount+, the singular focus on streaming should pay dividends.

It may have gotten a wobbly start, but it has plenty of room to run and enough IP to burn.

2. Disney+ Growth Will Stall Domestically

While Disney+ has cast its lot with one Star Wars series each year and 3-4 Marvel series, there’s almost zero innovation elsewhere. Yes, the library is great, but the streaming highlights are few and far between. That’s a recipe for incredibly high churn. Even if you like the Disney properties, there’s little reason to spend 12 entire months subscribed to the service unless you have children who are willing to watch the same titles repeatedly.

People who subscribe to Disney+ know what they’re getting: Disney/Pixar animation, Marvel, and Star Wars. The platform offers other content, but those series are unlikely to serve as primary drivers of subscriptions. If you don’t have children or identify with geek culture, there’s almost nothing of novelty here aside from “Hamilton” or the Beatles documentary “Get Back.”

Former CEO Bob Iger agrees with this assessment.

Disney’s eventual solution to this is to incorporate Hulu, but that’s tied up with their NBCUniversal entanglement through 2024. The company will try to boost the numbers with various bundle options (including adding it to Hulu + Live TV), but absent a slate of compelling adult-skewing content, Disney+ as a standalone service is running out of room to run.

Disney does plan to spend a whopping $33 billion on streaming content in FY ‘22, but we won’t see the full benefit of that for years to come. Adding more kid-friendly content doesn’t necessarily boost Disney+. The parents inclined to subscribe have already done so. The question, then, is whether this new content can appeal to young adults, empty-nesters, or some other new demographic. And if the content lands on Disney+ instead of Hulu, Disney is simply robbing Peter to pay Paul.

While there is plenty of room to run internationally, the domestic audience may have hit its peak unless Disney+ discovers a way to lure a new demographic.

3. Peacock Will Go Nowhere

In its most recent investor call, Comcast execs didn't even bother sharing Peacock subscriber numbers. If you’re new to the scene, executives are more than willing to crow about any positive numbers. If they’re silent, that’s because there’s something moderately-to-extremely negative they’re trying to hide.

While Peacock’s 2020 launch got thrown for a loop because of COVID’s impact on the Tokyo Olympics, 2021 wasn’t much rosier. The service absorbed the WWE Network and it offered a raft of Summer Olympics programming.

But have you ever heard anyone rave about a Peacock show? While Disney+ can hang its hat on “The Mandalorian” or its Marvel shows, and Netflix drops a global sensation like “Tiger King” or “Squid Game” at least once a year, we haven’t seen anything like that from Peacock yet.

The service offers sitcoms from creators well known for bigger hits and reboots of older series, but none of the originals have caught fire on a national or global scale. No one cares about “The Kids Tonight Show” or “Vanderpump Dogs.” Those sound like the kind of low-imagination fake NBC shows ridiculed by “30 Rock.”

Comcast is also compromised as some of its content ends up on Hulu, thanks to the company’s partial ownership of the platform. While the service will get a boost from the Winter Olympics and Universal films that will get an exclusive run on Peacock (instead of HBO Max), those titles will eventually be leased out to other services.

Without must-have originals, unless something changes, Peacock is really only needed for those that want Premier League, or those necessary die-hards who need to stream “Jurassic World: Dominion” right away.

The flimsy commitment to the platform means this service will remain on life support until something changes.

4. CNN+ Will Crash and Burn

CNN itself is a shell of its former glory. The Jeff Zucker era has favored talking heads over actual journalism. That’s a strategy that works well for FOX News fans willing to slurp from the Tucker Carlson Trough of Fascism, but that area of the media landscape is saturated. Fewer people are willing to pay for a premium streaming service to hear bold takes about how it might not be wise to hang Mike Pence, or why election officials should actually count the votes they receive.

CNN has gone from “the most trusted name in news” to a channel where Chris Cuomo gets an absurdly long leash after violating journalistic ethics by advising his scandal-plagued brother. It’s where “both sides” means giving equal time to pundits who want to work within the system and those who believe we should abandon democracy to become a dictatorial kleptocracy ruled by Jared Kushner in chainmail armor atop a throne of skulls.

So what will CNN+ offer that linear CNN does not? Details are still scarce, but we know it will offer documentary series like Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown.” We’ll also get a show hosted by former FOX News anchor Chris Wallace. Many speculate former MSNBC anchor Brian Williams may join the service. But is that enough?

News content is relatively cheap to produce, but we’ve seen that streaming services only thrive when they offer something recognizable or exclusive to lure new viewers.

“More news” won’t do it - we can find news anywhere.

“Impartial news” won’t do it - just ask beleaguered NewsNation how that’s going.

“Left wing news” won’t do it because it’s off-brand and CNN doesn’t have that kind of roster.

“Right wing news” won’t do it - just 35% of Republicans trust established journalism sources and they already have a fire hose of free content available.

In 2020, with a deadly pandemic raging and a tremendously consequential election in progress, CNN averaged just 1.8 million viewers in prime time. From 2017-19, that number was closer to 1 million. So who is the target audience?

For survival purposes, CNN+ should bundle itself with whatever HBO Max-discovery+ bundle that may come to pass out of the WarnerMedia-Discovery merger. But standalone CNN+ subscriptions are likely to be negligible. We’d love to see a pure-play news DTC option succeed, but it’s unlikely CNN+ will offer what is necessary to replace all other live news sources entirely.

5. YouTube TV Will Offer Different Channel Lineups Like Sling TV

The costs of live streaming have marched steadily upwards, but it feels like we’re nearing a limit. The whole point of cutting the cord was to have more choice at a lower price, but all these channel packages are relentlessly expensive.

Sling TV has the most unique solution, offering two different channel lineups at a discount with the full lineup available as a third, more expensive choice.

As we reported in October, YouTube TV is apparently considering “flexible” channel options. While that likely won’t mean the return of Bally Sports Networks, there’s bound to be a more palatable “skinny” bundles of additional channels or tiers.

Instead of $64.99, there may be a cheaper package that eliminates some of the lesser watched channels, which could be added for an additional cost as add-ons.

After all, YouTube TV came to blows with Disney earlier this month. We don’t know which side gave in, but it’s likely Disney used its NFL leverage to extract a hefty premium.

Remember, Disney also owns Hulu Live TV, which recently raised its price to $69.99. It would be odd if YouTube TV carried a very similar lineup without having to charge the same price. YouTube TV could eat the increased content costs for a time, but not indefinitely.

Sports fans will always shoulder a bigger bill, but others may fly to Philo or Sling TV unless YouTube TV offers a compelling sports-lite alternative.

Where Sling TV blazed a trail, other services are likely to follow. No one needs to pay for Olympic Channel and ESPNews, but every YouTube TV subscriber does. Tiers or bundles are the right play here.

So there you have it - five bold predictions that may or may not come true. We’re likely to be surprised by something in 2022 - either a major merger or a crazy service collapse. Who knows - Bally may finally launch its DTC offering even if the MLB remains on strike. If history has taught us anything, it’s that the streaming world is the Wild West. Cowboys come and cowboys go, but there’s always a gunfight at high noon.


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