When streaming networks first arrived on the scene, they were generally met with a mixture of skepticism and scorn. However, just like social media has evolved from a novel recreational app into a billion-dollar commercial technology, streaming networks have established themselves as a legitimate, and increasingly dominant force on the entertainment landscape.
According to James DuBose, a veteran TV producer, filmmaker, and entertainment industry executive who launched DuBose Entertainment in 2006 and DuBose Music Group in 2009, here are some of the key factors that are shaping the streaming network ecosystem now and into the future:
1. A Surge in Original Programming
While not every show is going to be at the level and of the caliber as Orange is the New Black, The Get Down or The Handmaid’s Tale, it's tough to argue against the fact that the explosion of streaming networks have ushered in a golden age of original programming. This is re-inventing generic templates and formulas that worked well in the past, but no longer speak to modern audiences who demand something different.
“The fuel that drives networks is content,” commented James DuBose, who produced the acclaimed 2018 crime drama Honor Up directed by Damon Dash and released by Lionsgate. “With dozens of major streaming networks and even more smaller players, we are seeing shows that would never have been produced 10 or 20 years ago generate strong followings and earn critical acclaim.”
2. A Bundling Bonanza
For decades, monthly subscription fees have been the gift that keeps on giving for conventional networks and cable companies. However, the rise of streaming networks led by players like Netflix and Hulu has triggered an unprecedented amount of fragmentation, as consumers flock to cut their cable — not just to save money, but to cast their vote for shows and networks that appeal to them. In response to this, cable companies are moving to offer bundles to keep customers in the fold.
“The adage if you can’t beat them, then join them definitely applies here,” commented James DuBose. “Cable companies and big networks have launched their own online streaming platforms, and are offering it for free to cable subscribers. The goal is to prevent subscribers from believing that they must either choose cable or streaming, and instead see that they can have both and watch what they want, when they want, and on any device. This is particularly appealing to consumers in areas where internet connectivity speeds are still fairly slow for high resolution broadcasts.”
3. Relentless Competition — Which Could be Good or Bad
Although the future of streaming networks is bright and we are just on the cusp of what’s possible, this doesn’t mean that all of the players are living in harmony. On the contrary, they’re relentlessly trying to grab each others’ talent and market share. This is potentially both positive and negative. On the positive side, it means that no single streaming network can ever get comfortable and rest on its prior achievements — because doing so will be an open invitation for a competitor to raise the bar and steal the spotlight. On the negative side, this could (and likely does) mean that smaller players will find themselves unable to survive for long without at least having strategic alliances with bigger players — which ultimately could lead to less competition rather than more.
“Of all of the concerns about the rise of streaming networks, this might be the most worrisome,” commented James DuBose. “Competition is generally a good thing, but it can become a liability instead of an asset if it prevents important stories from being told; especially those from, and about, traditionally marginalized and neglected demographics and audiences. We want to see more diversity and choice, not less.”
Nobody can predict what the future has in store. However, it is a safe bet — or make that a forgone conclusion — that as streaming networks rise and dominate, the narrative will be driven and shaped by the elements described above by James DuBose. As always, time will tell.