The streaming gold rush has arrived. The days of Netflix being the single option for customers is long over. Among the biggest players, people can choose from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and even AppleTV.
Disney+, the studio’s long-awaited streaming service, launched with over 100 exclusive films—including the blockbuster Star Wars franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and nearly every Pixar feature. By the end of its first year, the service plans to balloon to roughly 500 films and some 7,000 episodes of television, which still isn’t near Netflix’s offering, but this is just the start.
Netflix has already been offering consumers a bargain-basement television of sorts, with name-brand gems buried in a vast archive of cheap, often mediocre content. In 2018, Netflix offered viewers more than 1,500 TV shows and 4,000 movies; the same year, it produced nearly 1,500 hours of original content, as reported by Quartz.
Market analysts will be watching to see if Netflix users ditch their subscriptions to sign up for Disney+. But while these two behemoths go head-to-head, the waters are still rising. Amazon Prime Video already offers an estimated 18,000 movies (according to numbers from 2016). Disney+ will offer an option that pairs its PG-13 fare with adult-skewing content on Hulu and an ESPN package to boot. HBO Max, the upcoming streaming platform from WarnerMedia, plans to launch in May 2020 with about 10,000 hours of programming. Peacock, from NBCUniversal, plans to launch with some 15,000, including a Battlestar Galactica reboot.
Behind the scenes, the scaffolding for these platforms has cost billions. Disney CEO Bob Iger invested $2.6 billion just acquiring the technology for Disney+; the studio plans to spend almost $1 billion on original content for Disney+ in 2020. Apple TV+ reportedly spent at least $1 billion, and possibly up to $6 billion, developing its relatively tiny slate of 10 shows. AT&T told investors it’ll spend up to $2 billion on HBO Max. A few popular, easily rewatchable shows such as Friends and Seinfeld—all multicam sitcoms—have turned into billion-dollar bargaining chips. NBCUniversal paid $500 million to pull The Office from Netflix in 2021; WarnerMedia reportedly spent about as much pulling Friends from Netflix onto HBO Max. And in a “staggering” deal rumored to be worth billions of dollars, HBO Max secured The Big Bang Theory for five whole years.