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Stream wars: A new year

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High budget entertainment came at us from all directions in 2023, but it wasn’t a winner for everyone says CONSTANTINOS PSILLIDES

Who won? Who lost? Which service achieved its yearly goals and which one was weighed, measured and found wanting? 2023 has been a great year for streaming services overall; they all benefited equally from the rise in revenue but much like Animal Farm, some streamers are more equal than others.

 

Amazon Inferior

Despite a major investment in original programming – The Rings of Power alone cost almost a billion – and some successes here and there, Amazon just can’t deliver (huh!) a steady stream of movies and shows that will keep people from deleting their subscriptions. While Amazon doesn’t reveal its subscriber numbers, it is believed that it has the highest churn rate (the number of people who sign up to watch a show and cancel their subscription once that show is done) of all streaming services. Shows like Gen V, Reacher, Jack Ryan and RoP are just not enough to convince people to stay.

And it’s only getting worse.

As programming doesn’t do the trick, starting January 29 Amazon Video will be inserting ads in their shows. If you want an ad-free free experience, then you will have to pay more. In an email blast, the company explained that this will facilitate the company to “continue to invest in compelling content”, which is corporate speech for “look, we don’t know what to do. It’s either this or Bezos will have to get a second job”.

 

Lasso-ing them in – Apple TV

When it comes to consistency and quality content, Apple TV has been knocking it out of the park in 2023. The Silo, Ted Lasso, Severance, the hits just keep coming and the subscriber numbers keep increasing. It would all be great if it wasn’t for a little thing: Apple TV is also expected to insert ads into its shows in 2024. Apple TV was the only holdout since it has a different advertising model than the others; they lure you in with the heartwarming smile of Ted Lasso and if you happen just to buy Apple products because you are exposed to their branding, well, it’s a win for the company. But experts believe that Apple TV will inevitably shift towards ads in 2024, offering a pricier bundle for the ad-free experience.

 

Who? Hulu!

This past year has not been good for the House of Mouse. Disney+ lost 17.5 million subscribers compared to 2022, a large part of its audience continues to be under-age (toddlers, not exactly a great demographic for targeted marketing) and its shows just can’t get people to take the streaming service seriously. Two of it flagship shows for 2023, Ahsoka and the final season of Loki were mediocre at best (although Loki wrapped up quite nicely) adding more fuel to fire that is super-hero fatigue. But Disney execs are not worried as 2023 was expected to be a transitional year leading to 2024 where Disney has the answer to every problem: Hulu.

Disney+ originally owned a stake in the company and in 2024 it will have complete ownership, boosting its total subscriber numbers by 48.5 million users. On top of that, Disney+ will get critically acclaimed shows like The Bear, Handmaid’s Tale and Only Murders in the Building.

 

Max – Lost in rebranding

It’s been an HBOoooh year for Max, as the newly created platform is still trying to find an identity. The company closes the year with a drop in subscribers – 95 million in 2023 compared to 96.1 million in 2022 – and with a 12 per cent drop in revenue. Despite some great shows coming out this year, such as The Last of Us, Succession finale and The Gilded Age, it wasn’t enough to keep viewer numbers.

Max is still a great service thanks to its huge backlog, one that is slated to become even bigger in 2024. Not happy with just the merger with Discovery, company head David Zaslav is looking into a possible merger with Paramount to deepen its impressive library even more.

 

King of Kings – Netflix

This year was make or break for the streaming behemoth: having announced its password crackdown plans – limiting the number of users for each subscription – Netflix execs waited to see whether their plan would backfire, causing a massive exodus of users. Having finished 2022 with a drop in subscribers, things didn’t go well.

They went great.

The password-sharing crackdown worked, bringing in a whopping nine million subscribers to be added to the 15 million new ones in 2023, for a total of 247 million subscribers. Netflix is also reporting an increase in revenue and a plan to ramp up local productions and big-budget movies and series. 2024 is shaping up to be a great year for the streaming platform and if you currently have to pick one to subscribe to, Netflix would be your top choice.

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