Netflix dominated the first act in streaming video. But the second act is upon us—and it’s not just Amazon and Hulu that Netflix it’s up against. Netflix is battling legacy media and pay-TV giants with too much at stake to lose, like Disney, AT&T, and Comcast—not to mention tech companies like Apple, with its near-limitless resources.
The fight is getting fierce. That means more platforms launching, more platforms folding, new bundles, and tons more content to contend with. Here’s how to stay on top of it all.
What to watch for
Fox officially becomes part of Disney in the first half of 2019. Then, we’ll see what Disney does with the control of Hulu, the X-Men characters, and the very un-Disney film division Fox Searchlight that it fought Comcast so hard for. Its family-friendly streaming service, Disney+, also debuts in late 2019.
Apple’s Hollywood ambitions will become clear in March 2019, when its video service is reported to launch. That is assuming it doesn’t get pushed back again. Apple budgeted $1 billion for programming last year, and it has roughly two dozen shows in development or production.
WarnerMedia will be the next big media company to bring all of its brands like HBO, Warner Bros., and DC online in late 2019, when it launches its, as-of-yet unnamed, video service.
Amazon’s Twitch sits at the intersection of two exploding entertainment categories—video games and live-streaming. Business is reportedly booming, with 1 million people using the platform at any given moment. Twitch is starting to move beyond its core competency, airing traditional sports like football and Pokémon reruns.
5G will move from a buzzword to a real service in the next year, and make streaming video from smartphones easier and more efficient.
Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s mobile-TV service Quibi will be ready. Their platform for minutes-long, HBO-quality video is expected by early 2020.
The major US sports leagues, NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, could start moving to the internet in a meaningful way in 2021, when the current TV contracts begin expiring. That’s when the sports streaming services out there today will have a real shot at taking off.
Learning the lingo
Let’s break down some of the streaming-TV terms you’re likely to hear.
Originals: Most streaming “originals” aren’t that original. Netflix didn’t make House of Cards; it licensed it from Media Rights Capital. Better Call Saul, which airs on AMC in the US, is branded as a Netflix original series in places like the UK, Germany, and Japan. When companies talk about originals, it usually just means they have the exclusive rights to the TV show or movie. (Although Netflix is starting to produce more of its own stuff.)
Over the top (OTT): The industry term for delivering media, typically TV and film, over the internet rather than through traditional broadcast, cable, and satellite channels.
Direct to consumer (DTC): Delivering or selling content without a middle man, like a cable operator. TV networks like ESPN are among the latest to go “direct to consumer” by selling subscriptions like ESPN+.
Subscription video on demand (SVOD): In short, Netflix. This refers to subscription services that only offer on-demand programming, as opposed to live channels or streams.
Virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD): These are the internet TV providers like Sling TV and YouTube TV that are replicating traditional TV bundles online. MVPD is another way to refer to cable, satellite, and other pay-TV providers that carry live and scheduled channels.
Latency: The time it takes to deliver the data—in the case of streaming video, it is seconds-long packets of content that need to be delivered consistently—after the data transfer is initiated. Streaming video is generally behind cable TV. Latency doesn’t matter as much for on-demand video, when people are watching on their own time. But it is critical for live sports, livestreaming, and especially gaming, where every second counts. It becomes an issue if, say, you’re watching a basketball game and you receive an alert on your phone that a team scored before you see it on your screen.
Staying in the know
In your inbox
Byers Market by NBC’s Dylan Byers (@dylanbyers)—Byers’ newsletters give the impression of a man who never sleeps. He has his ear to the ground in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley, and his daily email goes inside the business, politics, and culture of the media news of the day. If you followed Byers in his previous post at CNNMoney, the Byers Market picks up where Pacific left off.
Hollywood Torrent by Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw (@lucas_shaw)—A pop-culture junkie, Shaw’s newsletter is your weekly download on the business behind music, movies, TV, and video games. He recently moved from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and is covering the entertainment industry from his new vantage point. His music recommendations at the end of each email are also A+.
The Ankler by Richard Rushfield (@richardrushfield)—This one is for the truly committed because it costs $45 per year. But Rushfield’s newsletter gives the real inside gossip and thoughtful analysis on the business of Hollywood that you won’t find on Deadline for free. He spent most of his career in and around entertainment, and has written for many of the big US publications.
In your ears
The Business with Kim Masters (@kimmasters)—This podcast from The Hollywood Reporter’s editor-at-large gets the entertainment business gossip each week from talent like Ava DuVernay, Ethan Hawke, and Sharp Objects showrunner Marti Noxon.
Recode Media with Peter Kafka (@pkafka)—Kafka’s weekly podcast also has smart interviews with A-listers but is focused on the cross-section of media and tech, so think folks like Jack Dorsey and John Skipper. A bonus: Recode also publishes the transcripts.
On your screen
TV[R]EV—TV analyst Alan Wolk wrote the book on TV’s evolution to the internet. Literally. He also leads TV[R]EV, a site designed to help people in the industry understand the changing face of TV. But it’s not so wonky that casual observers can’t enjoy it, too.
Hollywood Dementia—This one is pure fun. It is short fiction inspired by showbiz and written by Hollywood insiders. It is edited and curated by Deadline founder Nikki Finke.
JustWatch—A handy site for seeing where to stream movies and TV shows, legally, on the internet. Want to watch The Empire Strikes Back in South Africa? Renting it on Google or iTunes is your best bet, according to the site.
In your feed
Rich Greenfield (@RichBTIG)—Media analyst Greenfield has been foretelling the death of the cable bundle for awhile now. (See his hashtag #goodluckbundle.) Follow him for the hard-hitting questions he tweets at Disney quarterly, and stay for his GIF reactions to the earnings announcements.
Phillip Swann (@SwanniOnTV)— Swann runs the site TVAnswerman.com and is a good resource for breaking down the value of the TVs, streaming media players, bundles, and online-video subscriptions on the market. He’s also up on all the latest TV technology news.
Quartz’s Glass obsession, which chronicles the companies and people behind the changing way we develop and consume content, will also be following the changes in the industry closely. Join us.