Perhaps you’re one of those people, cord cutters, they call ’em, who has decided to ditch traditional cable television and just stream everything you watch on television — assuming, of course, you even own a television still. Maybe you watch all that streaming content on your tablet or smartphone.
Most of the people who have cut the cord — typically Gen-X’ers and millennials — have done so in an effort to avoid the high cost of cable television. A half-decent package of channels from Comcast or DirecTV might run you $50 to $100 a month. Netflix costs $10.99 a month, plus whatever you’re already paying for internet service at your home. They might supplement that with Hulu ($7.99) and HBO ($14.99). Still, all that combined is cheaper than cable.
But if you’re a cord cutter, or even someone who has a cable package and a streaming service, you should be mindful of some happenings that are going to change that experience for you sooner or later.
On Thursday, Disney announced it would acquire a majority of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox for about $60 billion. It would be the largest merger ever of two media entertainment companies.
Fox media mogul Rupert Murdoch would continue to own Fox broadcasting stations like WBFF 45 out of Baltimore, Fox News and several national sports networks, but Mickey Mouse would get ownership of the 21st Century Fox film studio, it’s television production company — responsible for shows like “The Simpsons” and “Modern Family” — a number of regional sports networks, and other cable channels like FX and National Geographic. Perhaps more importantly, Disney also acquires the Hulu streaming service.
The move by Disney is an effort to acquire a larger content library and launch its own branded streaming service within the next few years to compete with Netflix and the like.
If, like me, you have children who watch Disney movies like “Moana” and shows like “Sofia the First,” on loop on your Netflix account, enjoy it while you can. Disney plans to pull its entire catalog of content from Netflix by 2020 for its own branded subscription service.
Last year, AT&T launched the DirecTV Now streaming service, which it now says has more than 1 million subscribers, and recently began including free streaming of HBO in its unlimited wireless program. It’s also why AT&T is trying desperately to acquire Time Warner and all of its content, although that acquisition is currently being held up by the U.S. Justice Department.
Expect to see more of the same, with a few large companies getting even bigger by gobbling up as many content creators as possible in an effort to offer a wide variety of exclusive content on their steaming services. And expect to see some huge dollar figures flying around for those acquisitions.
For consumers who only subscribe to a single streaming service now, they will likely find that they’ll need to subscribe to multiple to get all the content they want as it becomes more exclusive, like Disney. Heck, Disney itself will likely offer at least three separate streaming services: Hulu, ESPN Plus for sports, and the family-friendly Disney-branded service it plans to roll out.
Those reasonable price tags hovering around $10 a month? Yeah, that’s likely going to go up too, because the companies will have to pay for all that additional content they acquired at an exorbitant price somehow.
Then there’s the matter of net neutrality. The FCC’s decision to repeal the rules for internet service providers that connect consumers to the web potentially opens the doors for those providers to start charging premium prices in order to be able to continue to stream content the way most of us with a high-speed internet connection are now.
None of this is going to happen overnight — and it’s possible that because of lawsuits plans could be delayed or halted entirely — so for the time being, we can blissfully binge-watch “Stranger Things” and “The West Wing” and let our kids view Disney’s “Zootopia” for the 47th time, but big changes are coming.
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Don’t be surprised if, in a few years, that $100 you were spending on cable in 2017 doesn’t seem so bad.