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Which Streaming Services May Give Up and Shut Down Next?

Ben Bowman

As the surge from stay-at-home pandemic streaming fades, companies are finding that audiences are more selective about where they spend their hard-earned dollars. CNN+ landed with a thud, getting shot down within a month of its launch. In the streaming gold rush, many of these services rushed into action without enough content to entertain subscribers. So which service might shut down next?

Let’s take a look and see which of these services will still be left standing in five years.

Netflix

After a disastrous quarter where it actually lost subscribers, many are writing Netflix’s obituary. After all, it doesn’t own much IP, and its recent slate of content feels like cheap reality show trash. As it chases Oscars, spends millions on star-studded yawners, and develops mobile games, Netflix seems to be investing in the wrong areas.

Another headwind: with so many new streamers in the mix, Netflix is losing its pipeline for library content. A recent deal with Sony should provide a little help against library erosion, but Netflix will need a lot more hits to keep up with the competition.

Still, with well over 200 million subscribers, a strong international user base, and a willingness to try ad-supported streaming, Netflix has a cushion that few other services can match.

Netflix Odds of Survival: 90%

Disney+

If there’s one service that may remain standing after all others have fallen away, it’s Disney+. The service has the strongest IP of any in the industry with Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, the Muppets, and Disney animated classics. As long as there are kids (and kids at heart), Disney+ will be around.

Disney+ Odds of Survival: 100%

Hulu

If you want a safe bet for a service that’s going to die, it’s Hulu. It’s only available in the United States. Almost everywhere else, the Hulu library appears as a separate tile on Disney+ called “Star” or “Star+”.

Hulu is still a standalone service in the U.S. because it’s partially owned by NBCUniversal parent Comcast. That deal remains in place until 2024 unless Disney wants to buy them out. Once 2024 hits, it’s a safe bet the Hulu library simply migrates to Disney+, either retaining the Hulu branding, getting rebranded as Star, or getting a new name entirely. When that happens, it’s likely that the name Hulu only applies to the live TV operation.

Hulu Odds of Survival: 5%

ESPN+

Disney has been investing heavily in ESPN+, adding lots of live sports, including NFL games. Unless Disney decides to get out of the sports game, this one is safe for a long time.

While ESPN+ offers robust NHL coverage, only the most die-hard NFL or MLB fans would sign up when so few games are offered. You also don’t get any NBA games at the moment. The increasing costs of live sports may eventually make the business model unprofitable, and Disney could choose to throttle back. But we suspect Disney is in this for the long haul.

ESPN+ Odds of Survival: 95%

Amazon Prime Video

This service is a big ol’ mess. They’re throwing money at unusual acquisitions like Thursday Night Football and the rights to MGM films. They turn out very few movies and shows, compared to their competitors. Most of the library content is low quality. Because it’s Amazon, there’s enough money to burn for years, even if the service itself isn’t all that profitable. A newly rebranded Freevee (formerly IMDb TV) provides ad-supported options.

Ideally, Prime Video would simply sell its originals to Netflix and stick all the B-movie dreck on Freevee. There’s little reason for Prime Video to exist, but it does have a handful of good shows. It wouldn’t surprise us if Amazon decided to pull the plug someday, but this service is not under the same pressures as its competitors.

Prime Video Odds of Survival: 80%

Paramount+

Although it’s facing growing pains because of its lack of new theatrical films and shows, Paramount+ is actually set up for a good long run. The inclusion of the NFL is a nice perk, the partnership with Taylor Sheridan is paying off, and the brand library is strong with Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central. The service will eventually regain “South Park,” and it will not make the mistake of letting a show like “Yellowstone” leave for another service again.

A promising pipeline of shows and a long history of quality entertainment makes this a long-haul service to keep an eye on. One day, it will end up with the long-delayed “Top Gun” and “Mission: Impossible” sequels, and once the content faucet turns on, Paramount+ will become a more compelling service.

Paramount+ Odds of Survival: 90%

Peacock

Peacock is a strange duck with its free tier, its ad-supported tier, and its premium tier. While there are some good Universal films on the platform, NBCUniversal is happy to loan its films out to other services, so it’s not a vault the way Disney+ is. Peacock is also struggling badly to create an original hit. “Bel-Air” is its most-streamed original, but that’s a take-off of a beloved sitcom. Shows like “Girls5eva” and “Rutherford Falls” haven’t made a dent. There are no buzz-worthy first-run dramas. The cupboard is pretty bare when you’re looking for standout new shows.

Although Peacock gets “Yellowstone” seasons after they wrap up on Paramount Network, Peacock doesn’t own the show, and rights are likely to revert to Paramount+ at some point.

Comcast has the money to keep Peacock afloat forever. But if they’re going to starve it for content, does it have much of a future? Reeling in the theatrical releases and the NBC programming from HBO Max and Hulu will help some. But we haven’t seen a clear strategy on how Peacock plans to make itself “must see TV.”

Like Prime Video, Peacock feels like a lark from its parent company, rather than a laser-focused competitor in the streaming wars. It will take significant investment to turn the ship around. Wouldn’t Comcast rather just collect revenue on its content from other services instead of sledding uphill with yet another platform?

Peacock Odds of Survival: 60%

HBO Max and discovery+

We’re sticking these together because we know they will eventually merge into one service. The libraries are vast, and the HBO content is among the best streaming has to offer. The question remains how the Discovery content will fold into the platform without diluting the marquee HBO name. But even if the organizations stopped creating new content, the libraries alone would merit a subscription.

HBO’s Midas touch with content is the gold standard in streaming, and the lifestyle content of Discovery has a loyal audience. The new service, whatever it’s called, will be built to last.

HBO Max and discovery+ Odds of Survival: 100%

Showtime

Count us among the Showtime doubters. Starting this summer, you'll be able to access Showtime content within Paramount+ if you pay for the upgrade. That smells like the first step before killing off the standalone Showtime platform. Bear in mind, Paramount also stole “Halo” from Showtime to put it on Paramount+. That’s not something they would do if they believed Showtime had much of a future.

Within Paramount Global, Showtime personnel have complained about a lack of resources as the company pivots to streaming. The price point is also ridiculous for how little content is available. Eventually, Paramount will realize that the smartest play is to combine the libraries, and sunset the Showtime app. Showtime the channel can continue as it always has.

Why it’s taking Paramount so long to do this, we don’t know. But we’re confident it will happen in time.

Showtime Odds of Survival: 5%

Apple TV+

What started as a head-scratcher of a service is actually turning out to be pretty interesting. “Severance” was a thought-provoking, original show with a cliff-hanger ending that guarantees viewers will be back. The Best Picture Oscar for “CODA” also helps. In many ways, Apple TV+ is becoming something similar to what HBO was in the early 90s - limited, prestige TV.

It has a long, long way to go before it cements itself as a must-have service, but it is proving to be patient and well-funded - just the kind of environment creators love.

The addition of MLB doesn’t seem like a logical fit, but it’s bringing new users to the platform.

If there’s a major threat to Apple TV+, it might be that Tim Cook simply gets bored with the service or chooses not to invest beyond its limited runway. If the quality remains high, it may have some boutique prestige, but the library is ultra-thin right now.

Apple TV+ Odds of Survival: 75%

STARZ

LIke Showtime, there’s not enough content here to merit its own streaming service, but the future is more murky. Roku just made a bid for a minority stake in STARZ, so there may be some desire to set up a STARZ-to-Roku Channel pipeline for premium, exclusive content.

Parent company Lions Gate appears to want to wash its hands of STARZ, but will it find a buyer? And what might that buyer do with the service? STARZ certainly seems like it’s ripe to be gobbled up by a Netflix or Warner Bros. Discovery. Heck, Amazon could just buy the library to bolster Prime Video.

But STARZ doesn’t have enough must-have shows to be a mouth-watering takeover target. It’s a small fish swimming in a big pond. The future is very uncertain for this service. As a standalone, it seems doomed. But as a component of another company, it may have some life.

STARZ Odds of Survival: 20%