Now that CBS Corp. is entering the ultracompetitive online TV market by announcing its new “Star Trek” series will air exclusively on its CBS All Access site, rival platforms are boldly going to war in a high-stakes battle for viewers.
The likes of Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Instant Video, Netflix Inc. and Santa Monica’s Hulu have stepped up their own original programming offerings to incentivize consumers to pick their service over the rest.
“The stakes are enormous for the streaming services and this increased competition means more choices for the consumer and, thus far, no increased pricing,” said Peter Klaas, who advises entertainment companies as senior manager at Westwood accounting firm Green Hasson Janks.
While ratings are closely guarded by streaming video-on-demand services, Klaas said Internet usage data offers some clarity as to who is coming out on top so far. He noted that more than 50 percent of the U.S. population with broadband access is using Netflix at least once a week, while Amazon Prime and Hulu each get less than 20 percent.
Uri Fleming, partner at Westwood entertainment law firm Kleinberg Lange Cuddy & Carlo, who frequently represents media firms in content deals, said there will eventually be some attrition.
“The market probably can’t support more than two or three big multicontent streaming services,” said Fleming. “I don’t think customers will be willing to pay for too many of them.”
The move into digital distribution, he explained, represents a desire by media giants to stay relevant among younger viewers, who are increasingly accessing content on different platforms.
“Industry players are competing to catch these eyeballs to both make up for their losses in TV and grow their new business units,” he added.
The “Star Trek” announcement is significant in that CBS has become the first broadcast network to produce a series exclusively for its streaming service.
Fleming said CBS made a smart move by selecting a well-known entertainment brand as its initial digital-first show.
“In ‘Star Trek,’ they’ve found a property that has a big and dedicated following that is more likely than a general audience to pay for the ability to watch that show,” he said.
However, CBS All Access is competing against platforms with much larger audiences. Despite that obstacle, the network said it is confident of closing the gap by convincing the large and rabid Trekkers fan base to pay for the new series, which will debut in January 2017.
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