HBO Max, Netflix, Disney+, and the Day Streaming Died
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The date engraved on the tombstone is May 23, 2023. On that day, HBO Max—a streaming service with a name that would be inscrutable if it didn’t have “HBO” in it—became just Max. The day that the Max news was trending online and the The Max app had an errorNetflix tried to start quietly Limiting who can share passwords. It was the day streaming died.
Perhaps this statement is a complete exaggeration. But amid what appears to be a panicked time in the streaming industry, it doesn’t feel entirely wrong either. Over the past three years, services like Netflix, Disney+, and a dozen other offerings with silly titles have lost their audiences trapped by the coronavirus crisis, only to experience subscriber churn caused by an overabundance of options.
To cushion loss of incomeMany – Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max – have introduced ad-supported tiers. That saved a few people some money and made the companies money, but it also came at a time when streamers’ ever-changing shows and movies were confusing many viewers as to what they were getting for their money. For a long time it seemed as if a reckoning was imminent. It arrived this week.
Sarah Henschel, chief analyst at Omdia, who closely monitors the streaming market, agrees this is a game changer. “We’re seeing a lot of these ministries approaching maturity where it’s been more of the Wild West over the past decade,” she says. “They’re all starting to face the reality that now they have to make money and they can’t just give away all the content in the world for $5.”
Ever since Netflix started streaming movies and TV shows and then creating their own content house of cards, the landscape has changed. While tech companies like Netflix and Amazon rushed to get into the Hollywood production game, Hollywood itself was struggling to keep up when it came to streaming. New players have poured millions into the development of original movies and series. Established studios launched their own streaming services—Disney+, Paramount+, Hulu—claiming back the content they produced. The office went to Peacock. Friends went to (HBO) Max.
The name of the game was Get Subscribers. And it worked – for a while. But it was very expensive, and streaming services were soon able to offer ad-supported options to help them cover costs and keep customers, or remove things from their libraries. Netflix, which has long held back on commercials, rolled out an ad-supported tier in late 2022. Now there are series like west world disappeared from Max and was licensed to third parties amid talk of tax write-offs for parent company Warner Bros. Discovery.
Suddenly, the bold new world of streaming felt just like the long-established world of television, with shows buzzing around in syndication and a small handful of players vying to be the Big Three of broadcast (minus the actual broadcast). “At the beginning of the streaming era, there was unbundling,” says Henschel, referring to the announcement earlier this month that Disney will do so Integrate Hulu with Disney+ later this year. “Now we are in the rebundling phase.”