Consumers will soon have a lot of choices when it comes to over-the-top streaming video. Apple ( AAPL 2.69% ) has already launched its service, Apple TV+. Disney ( DIS 0.46% ) will launch Disney+ this week. AT&T's ( T -1.19% ) HBO Max is set to debut in May. All three join existing streaming services from Amazon ( AMZN 0.46% ), CBS ( VIAC -0.42% ) (which owns Showtime), and, of course, Netflix ( NFLX -0.96% ).
Consumers might be trying to figure out how all these services will fit into their budgets, and they could prove to have shorter customer life spans than traditional cable subscribers. But the companies behind the streaming services might have a solution to those problems: a bundle.
Building a better bundle
Disney will offer consumers interested in its streaming services the option to bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for just $12.99 per month (a $5 per month discount). CBS offers a bundle of Showtime and CBS All Access starting at $14.99 per month (a $2 per month discount).
But there might be an opportunity for companies like Apple, Amazon, and Roku ( ROKU -4.62% ) to offer a bundle of services from different companies. In fact, CBS is reportedly in talks with those companies to bundle Showtime with other services, according to Reuters.
Apple, Amazon, and Roku could offer such a bundle through their respective Channels offering. Apple operates Apple TV Channels based on wholesale agreements, and Amazon is pushing to go that way with some of its more popular channels as well. Roku also operates premium subscriptions in the Roku Channel based on wholesale agreements. Wholesale agreements allow the distributor to set the price on services instead of the service provider themselves. That opens the door for them to improve the overall value to their customers through a bundle of popular services.
A bundle of streaming services could be great for companies whose offerings are included. Bundles decrease subscriber churn and increase customer lifetime value. But if a service isn't included in the bundle, it could lose subscribers. Consumers are already conscious of how much they'll be spending on streaming, and a bundle is designed to get them to spend on content they wouldn't otherwise subscribe to as a stand-alone service. That could push niche streaming services out of consumers' budgets.
Making it easy to bundle
CBS isn't the only company willing to wholesale its services and package them as part of a bundle. At AT&T's investor day, at which it showcased HBO Max, management mentioned the ability for distributors to wholesale the service on a stand-alone basis and bundle it as part of an internet service package. That suggests it's amenable to bundling with over-the-top services from other companies.
Disney has historically benefited from bundling, pushing distributors to include its expensive cable networks as part of a package of channels with broad appeal. The company is capable of offering the same broad appeal through its own bundle, but offering Disney+ or ESPN+ wholesale as part of a broader bundle could be beneficial for the company as well.
Netflix has even signed deals with traditional cable distributors to package its service as part of a bundle. That said, those deals are largely designed to help Netflix reach an audience it's unlikely to reach on its own. Netflix has largely resisted Apple and Amazon when it comes to sharing revenue.
That said, the opportunity is there for one of the big tech companies to put together a bundle of streaming services for consumers. If either can find a successful combination, it could be a major boon to their business.
Apple stands to gain from better overall economics of Apple TV Channels and locking consumers into its ecosystem of hardware and services.
Likewise, Amazon would gain from improved Prime subscriber retention, as Prime is a prerequisite for Amazon Channels subscribers.
Roku may benefit from greater insight into what its users are watching, enabling it to increase engagement through better recommendations. Additionally, those data may help inform its growing advertising business. And getting users to pay for everything through their Roku account creates a lock-in mechanism to prevent switching to other distribution platforms.
It's almost inevitable that Apple, Amazon, and Roku will work with media companies to put together a bundle of services, since it has strong potential to increase customer lifetime value for both the distributors and the media companies behind the streaming services. The potential downside is very low, while the upside is quite high.