Is TELUS Providing the Blueprint for how A La Carte Bundling Could Work?
Don’t look now, but the future of streaming might be taking shape as we speak. And while I am talking about bundling, I’m not talking about the inevitable merger of Warner Bros. Discovery streamers HBO Max and discovery+ — and maybe even CNN+ — or a potential consolidation of Disney's streaming services Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+.
Instead, I am talking about the new plan from Canadian telecommunications company TELUS. The cable company north of the border has launched an exclusive Stream+ Add-on which gives subscribers the chance to add Netflix Premium, Apple TV+, and discovery+ for just $25 CAD per month ($19.80 USD). On their own, the three streamers would run $31.97 CAD ($25.33 USD). Of note, because HBO Max content is distributed via Crave in Canada, it is not eligible to join the bundle alongside corporate sibling discovery+.
Increasingly, studies have shown that even as the amount of streaming has risen dramatically, customers are becoming wary of the cost associated with streaming, turning more and more often to free, ad-supported options.
One of the solutions that customers have been asking for is the option to choose the unrelated services that most interest them in order to form an a la carte bundle of their own. While Disney has their bundle and WBD plans to bundle HBO Max and discovery+ before the merger, customers want to be able to pick and choose the streamers to bundle based on what’s best for them.
While TELUS is not exactly giving that to customers, what the company is doing is providing the ability for viewers to get the benefits of bundling while combining three services that, until now, have been unbundelable. Of course, this is an add-on created by a cable company in order to keep customers signed up for their pay-TV service, not a bundling option that would entice consumers to cut the cord. But it does potentially lay out a blueprint for what is possible.
Obviously, there are corporate reasons why Netflix might not want to be bundled with another streamer like Apple TV+; Amazon makes a lot of money off of its Channels platform, so likely wouldn’t want to bundle Prime Video; and it’s unlikely that, with their own suite of streaming services, either Disney or WBD will want to partner with Paramount+ or Peacock on a bundle, especially as Paramount has announced that they will be making Showtime available in the app this summer.
But if the smaller services that are still looking to achieve sizeable market penetration were to band together in an official way, that could make a difference.
For example, the target audiences for Paramount+ and Apple TV+ are very different, and their respective content shows that. If those two services were to come together for a streaming bundle that also perhaps included educational content from Curiosity Stream, that might be an attractive option to a certain segment of the streaming population as it would provide quality programming for the entire family. However, it still wouldn’t be a true a la carte option.
To be fair, without being able to include Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, or Hulu in a bundle, the prospects of it making an impact with U.S. consumers are probably minimal. However, if Netflix were to look at its slowing domestic subscriber numbers and want to think outside of the box in order to continue its U.S. growth, becoming the tentpole in a first-of-its-kind bundle could work.
We already know that the streaming giant is attempting to encourage customers to stop sharing passwords, and there is a growing push for them to introduce an ad-supported tier, so if they wanted to make their high-priced subscription a part of a deal with other services in order to welcome in the budget-conscious customers, it would make sense.
Given Netflix’s industry-best churn rate, once they get customers in the door, it is usually pretty unlikely that they will leave anytime soon.
While cross-corporate bundles are not likely to become the norm anytime soon — at least not without the help of a middle-man like a cable company or wireless phone provider — it is obvious that customers want more flexibility and bang for their buck. So, while the conglomerates behind certain streaming services are circling their respective wagons in order to build platforms that essentially serve as their own bundles, it would likely behoove the remaining players to find a way to work together before the streaming crunch elbows them out of the picture altogether.