Mar 9, 2021 - Economy & Business

Streaming arms race causes chaos for consumers

Data: Axios Research; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Axios Research; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The streaming era has presented lots of confusion for consumers trying to navigate how, where and when to watch a hit interview if you are unable to catch it live.

Driving the news: CBS licensed Sunday's bombshell Harry and Meghan interview from Oprah Winfrey’s production company Harpo Productions for more than $7 million, per The Wall Street Journal.

  • The interview appeared live on ViacomCBS' new streaming service Paramount+ Sunday night, but it's unclear where it will live permanently.
  • The interview will only be available on the CBS app and CBS.com for free for 30 days.
  • Sources tell Variety that Paramount+ doesn't have the streaming rights to the special, Harpo Productions does.
  • The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) is mostly owned by Discovery, which just this year launched its own streaming service Discovery+.

The big picture: Paramount+, the new subscription service from ViacomCBS, launched Thursday, further crowding the competitive streaming battlefield. It's the last remaining service to launch from a big entertainment company for the foreseeable future.

Further adding to the consumer chaos: Streamers have long licensed their biggest hits to other companies, making them inaccessible on their own services for some time after they launch.

  • For example, one of Paramount Networks' top hits, Yellowstone, is licensed exclusively to NBCUniversal's "Peacock" service, and won't be available to Paramount+ subscribers.

What to watch: Data shows that most consumers are likely to pay for at most 3-4 services per month.

  • Most streaming executives concede that at this point, the goal is to become a viable third or fourth option next to Netflix and Disney+, which are ahead on the streaming battlefield.
  • In a little over a year, Disney+ has accrued about 95 million subscribers, nearly half the number of subscribers Netflix has accumulated over the past decade.
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