Streaming services are the new cable: is that a good thing?

Henry Bendon, Staff Reporter

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Last week, Disney announced that Hillary Duff would return to the role of Lizzie McGuire in a new show for Disney Plus, the subscription video service the company launched to compete with the likes of Netflix and Hulu. 

”Lizzie McGuire” is one of many shows that Disney has announced; there will also be new stories set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the new expanded Star Wars universe and other places across the number of franchises Disney has acquired. 

The return and expansion of popular television and movie programs to streaming services isn’t a Disney-only venture. CBS has been working on its CBS All Access platform for several years drawing on the popularity of Star Trek, among other programs. 

Hulu, Netflix and Amazon all have video streaming services of their own, and with WarnerMedia set to release HBO MAX as its addition to the streaming universe, the TV landscape is getting more convoluted every day. 

For consumers, this represents a pretty significant new tradeoff. The dispersion of content along company lines has created a glut of new shows, many of which are returns to popular favorites meant to inspire subscriber growth. 

Issues arise with the number of services and the actions companies are taking to create growth. None of the services are particularly expensive on their own — they range between six and 20 dollars a month, but as companies take back shows like Friends (WarnerMedia) and The Office (NBCUniversal), the total cost for what used to be available centralized on Netflix is rising dramatically. 

In many ways, this new media landscape marks a paradigm shift from the way cable bundling changed tradition television years ago. With so many media companies and only so much market space available for them to play with, it seems unlikely that all of them will succeed.

This sentiment was perhaps best described by The Verge reporter Laura Hudson writing about Star Trek: Discovery, on CBS All Access. “So you got me, CBS. I’m paying for your subscription service — at least until this season of Discovery ends — but I’m doing it reluctantly and resentfully, and feeling like a rube every step of the way.”

As more and more companies bring new shows to new platforms, the question remains whether consumers will be willing to put up with feeling cheated in order to watch the shows they are interested in. 

There are a number of big players entering the streaming field, which makes it feel like on-demand is the next place television is going to go. But should it? And when it does, what will that mean for television viewers without 50 dollars to spend on different monthly streaming services? Only time will tell.