Now that growth is saturated in the streaming sector, companies are increasingly behaving like the cable TV giants they once disrupted in a bid to deliver Wall Street improved quarterly returns at any cost. Even if it means annoying consumers and damaging the company’s long-term brand.
Netflix now wants to harass you for doing something it spent years saying was ok (password sharing). Amazon thinks it’s a clever idea to charge existing Prime subscribers an additional fee if they want to skip ads. All while catalog quality shrinks or gets worse and pricing increases.
And what passes for innovation just isn’t that innovative. Take for example Hulu, Peacock and Max, which are increasingly experimenting not with interesting new technologies or innovative new content ideas, but with ads that appear when you hit the pause button:
“The stakes are high. Despite subscribers’ disdain for watching commercials, more streamers are adopting advertising, cognizant that they need the revenue it brings with it.”
Of course, the implementation needs work. Increasingly, ad-based streaming services seem oblivious that they routinely run the same, low-quality ads multiple times in succession. It’s a delicate balance to avoid annoying customers; something companies in a rush for profits probably aren’t going to get right:
“Having a bad experience or having a lot of ad clutter erodes the impact of ads and is really bad for users,” says Kara Manatt, executive vice president of intelligence solutions at Magna, a media-research unit of advertising giant Interpublic Group. “We found in research that they may actually change their behavior because of this. They may actually cancel their streaming service.”
Endless price hikes. An overabundance of ads. Lots of effort to nickel-and-dime users. Where have we heard of this before? Oh, that’s right: Comcast.
The underlying apparatus that destroyed cable TV and gave us Comcast (Wall Street obsession with short term growth at all costs, mindless consolidation, unfair treatment of labor, outsized compensation for bumbling high level executives) is hard at work trying to ruin streaming. In turn spawning another new round of disruptive innovation from more interesting companies as the cycle starts anew.