The uncanny parallels between streaming and cable

The traditional cable and satellite TV model is familiar to most: providers deliver you content from hundreds of networks such at TBS, Fox and TNT.

The growing popularity of streaming — catalyzed by Netflix —has shaken the cable TV industry to its core. Content ownership has become a main priority for any company even remotely connected to the media space.

Thanks to smart TVs and streaming providers like Roku, the Amazon Fire TV Stick and the Apple TV, it looks like the media industry is moving toward an equilibrium that consumers will recognize.

Rather than accessing TV channels through a cable box or satellite dish, consumers will be browsing streaming services on one of the devices mentioned above. In the future, your TV could also already be connected to the swelling number of platforms.

Most major networks have already launched direct to consumer products to compete with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and HBO. Disney’s streaming platform creatively named “Disney+” is set to launch in 2019. Fox News recently launched a “Fox Nation” a streaming service costing $5.99 a month featuring conservative political commentary for its most loyal fans.

One of the most consequential moves in the streaming world was revealed earlier this week. TechCrunch reported AT&T might sell its 10 percent stake in Hulu and double-down on its own streaming platform for its newly-acquired WarnerMedia assets. Disney now owns 60 percent of Hulu after its acquisition of most of 21st Century Fox earlier this year. Comcast owns the remaining 30 percent of Hulu through NBCUniversal.

Despite all the noise around the disruptiveness of streaming, the overarching delivery of content isn’t all that different from cable.

So where does that leave behemoths like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon? There’s no clear answer as of now, but it explains why all three companies have made huge investments into content (Comcast/NBC merger, AT&T/Time Warner acquisition). As more customers choose streaming platforms over traditional cable and satellite, the big three providers will need to adapt in order to survive.

The original idea behind streaming was to lower prices and democratize access to content. The scramble from companies such as Disney and Netflix to create and buy premium content is going to prevent that from happening. In order for most people to have access to all the shows and movies they enjoy, its likely they’ll need to subscribe to multiple streaming services.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a startup comes along and offers an a la carte bundle of streaming services in a similar way to how cable companies offer a variety of channels for customers to choose from.

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