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Making Sense of All the Streaming Choices

By Motley Fool Staff – Updated Apr 29, 2019 at 1:10PM

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People are cutting the cord because they have a lot of options -- maybe too many in some cases.

The streaming video world has been rapidly growing. That leaves consumers with a lot of choices, maybe even an overwhelming number of them. When you consider the needs of a multiperson household, that can become very confusing, and it actually makes cable look more attractive. That confusion is only going to grow as new players join the market.

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This video was recorded on April 23, 2019.

Shannon Jones: Let's turn our attention to another story that's been ongoing. Dan, I know you and Dylan got the chance to talk about streaming, specifically the new Disney+ (DIS 2.07%) that's set to roll out later this year. But if you're like me and the rest of the world, when it comes to streaming and the streaming wars -- I don't even want to call it "streaming wars," it's just streaming chaos and confusion at this point, because there's so many players. How do you make sense of all the different options that are now being rolled out in streaming?

Dan Kline: It's too difficult. We've talked about this on the show before, with me and you and various hosts. There are so many streaming services. We both have kids. I have a 15-year-old, you have a...

Jones: Nine-year-old.

Kline: Nine-year-old. So, both of our kids are probably into Cartoon Network. My son likes some of the comic book shows. He watches DC Universe with me -- that's a paid service. When you balance your household and figure out all the different things you need, if you're one person living alone, you might get by with Netflix, and later, Netflix with Disney+. The second you start adding more people to the household, the combination of streaming services I have -- which is like eight or nine different paid services -- it doesn't cost as much as cable, but it does cost a lot. And as more start coming out, it becomes something you have to manage. And then you start saying, "Boy, I wish some company would just combine all these services and I could pay one fee." Oh, wait a minute, that's cable!

I think we're at a weird tipping point. This went from an additive thing, like, "Do I want HBO and Cinemax with my cable package?" to, "Alright, now I have Netflix and I'm going to cut the cord. Do I want PlayStation Vue? Do I want Hulu Live? Do I want YouTube TV? Am I going to add HBO, which will be ingrained in those services? Am I going to have these separate services? Geez, I like sports! Do I want the Major League Baseball package separately? My kid's really into anime, do I want this niche anime streaming service?" I think for the average person, it's becoming overwhelming. I think that may actually slow down cord-cutting.

Jones: Very, very good point, Dan! I agree, I think just the vast amount of options makes it really hard to decide. Just like you, we've got multiple streaming services, devices, and platforms in our house. Granted, we are paying much less than what we paid when we had a big cable provider that I will not name that has terrible customer service. But I will say, when you're thinking about just convenience, and even paying the bills, the more you start to add on, the more it just makes you not want to choose any of them. I will say though, and I think you're bringing up this point, that it's not a winner-takes-all market when it comes to streaming. Right now, each one does serve its own niche. You've got Disney with their Disney+ service. They've got this massive vault of content that really has this emotional connection. As a parent, you could probably relate to this, Dan. This is content you can watch over and over and over again. I can't tell you how many times I've watched Frozen. You have this content that just continues to build upon itself and build out the ecosystem with their merchandise and the parks and everything like that. You've also got these multiple franchises as well that can continue to run. I'm thinking about Marvel, Star Wars, even the Pixar franchise. Disney serves this niche, this family programming that. You've got Hulu on the other side -- that's much more to me like your typical TV network. If I want to catch up on the TV show that I missed, I can go to Hulu and easily pull that up. Of course, you've got multiple big-name networks that have stakes in Hulu. Then you've got Netflix and you're just looking for, I hate to say it, weird programming that you typically would not find or go looking for, you go to Netflix for this original content. I think right now, you've got many of the major players just serving their own niche. But the key will be, how are they going to start to bundle that?

Kline: As a consumer, I think you have a default base. You're going to have Netflix. The volume of shows on Netflix just makes sense for you to have it. You're going to have Disney+ for the reasons you just mentioned. They have a huge archive of stuff. I'm super excited about the Star Wars shows they've announced, the Marvel shows they've announced. Then after that, you're going to have to make the decision -- do I want live TV? If you want live TV, I think ultimately, Hulu is going to bundle Disney+ and ESPN+ so you can get them all through one interface, sort of the way Sling TV allows you to have your HBO content and all your other add-ons without having to leave the app and go to another. That becomes a problem for everything that isn't app-integrated. We subscribe to WWE Network. I'm a big New York Rangers fan, so if they weren't terrible, I would probably subscribe to the NHL package to get those. But getting to that content means leaving Hulu Live, which is my prime way of watching TV, and going to those packages. Anything that's on the outside looking in is going to have to be much better. When you look at some of the also-rans -- remember, Sony owns Crackle which is free, and you still don't have it. It actually has some OK content, but there's no time for it. I think the winners are going to be the integrators -- Disney, through its ownership of most of Hulu and these other services and its ability to eventually maybe offer ESPN or ABC or all the other things it owns and roll it into that; Roku, because they have the player; and, to a different extent, Amazon. Although, whether Amazon and Apple can make nice is going to be challenging as you have new content coming from Apple. We're in the really early stages. Some of this stuff is going to go away.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel B. Kline owns shares of Apple and World Wrestling Entertainment. Shannon Jones owns shares of Amazon, Apple, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on Apple and short January 2020 $155 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Roku. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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