Cutting the cord used to be easy. Ditch cable, buy an antenna, and watch free shows and oodles of movies and TV shows on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
Then big media got into action, pulling shows off those services and asking us to pay extra money to get it from them.
Nothing radical has happened to our streaming bill yet, but just wait. It’s about to explode.
This week CBS and Viacom agreed to merge, in a nod toward streaming, joining Disney, NBC Universal, ATT and Apple as they look to reshape the streaming landscape and carve out their chunk of the lucrative new media dollar.
CBS (the owner of the CBS TV network and pay cable’s Showtime) and Viacom (home to MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central) have both been stodgier toward streaming than competitors.
The Viacom channels, for instance, aren’t available on the YouTube TV cable alternative, nor Sony’s PlayStation VUE service. Hulu shows most of the prime-time lineups of NBC, Fox and ABC, but not CBS, which declined to join the ad-supported service. Instead, CBS started its own service, CBS All Access, which has all of the network’s prime-time shows and originals like new versions of Star Trek and a sequel to “The Good Wife.”
Viacom made its bet with Pluto.TV, the ad-supported network it bought in January for $340 million. It recently began offering older Viacom cable TV shows like “Wahlburgers”
This week, execs said Viacom shows would soon come to CBS All Access and CBS fare would go to Pluto.
That won’t raise anyone’s rates. Netflix recently upped its monthly charge, and Apple and Disney plan to launch new streaming services this year, with Warner and NBC/Universal in 2020.
CBS and Viacom together “is big, and interesting and worth $30 billion,” says Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities. “Yet Netflix is worth $150 billion. How is it possible that Netflix, which owns little content, is worth so much, and CBS and Viacom, which has so much content, is worth so much less?”
That’s a question Disney asked, as it went on a shopping spree and swallowed up 20th Century Fox, picking up majority ownership of Hulu along the way.
Now, Disney+, the streaming service set to launch in November, is the biggest project CEO Bob Iger says the company has been involved with, and it’s the service “my readers most care about,” says Luke Bouma, the editor of the Cordcuttersnews blog.
“No other service brings them more excitement,” he adds. “Nothing’s even close.” It has a low price of $6.99 monthly, has a complete library of older Disney cartoons, plus new originals from the Pixar, Marvel and 20th Century Fox libraries. This week, Disney announced a new series based on the Fox movie “Love, Simon.”
Of the three new services, Pachter agrees that Disney+ is the one to beat, followed by HBO Max, which will be offered to current HBO subscribers as a nominal upgrade. No pricing has been announced, but Pachter predicts $3 to $4 monthly. HBO owner Warner Media is pulling the popular TV show “Friends” from Netflix to appear on Max.
Pachter sees less consumer interest in Apple TV Plus, the premium service that has touted a handful of popular names (Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston,) but so far, just one coming attraction – the Witherspoon/Aniston “Morning Show.” The lack of quantity makes it less attractive to consumers, he says.
“Our readers are scared they’ll charge a lot and concerned there won’t be much content,” says Bouma.
Apple hasn’t announced pricing or a firm launch date, beyond the “fall.”
In other tech news this week
That Capital One hack was worse than we first expected. It wasn’t just 140,000 Social Security numbers from credit card applications, but 30 other companies, government agencies and educational institutions were also hit, according to government prosecutors.
The new set of tariffs on Chinese imports go into effect Sept. 1, and could include three popular products from Apple, including the AirPods, HomePod and Apple Watch.
Google said its Google Assistant devices will get an upgrade over the next few weeks to allow you to set reminders for other people. For example, if you want to leave a reminder for your roommate to pay a bill or your husband that it’s his day to pick up the kids from school, you can ask your Google Assistant to remind them for you. You can set a reminder at a specific time or at a specific location. Reminders can be set on phones, speakers and Smart Displays, and will work with Google Nest Hub Max when it’s available later this fall.
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