'Subscription Fatigue' Looms As Comcast Reveals Yet Another New Streaming TV Platform

from the lousy-with-choice dept

So we’ve noted many times that the rise of streaming video competitors is indisputably a good thing. Numerous new streaming alternatives have driven competition to an antiquated cable TV sector that has long been plagued by apathy, high rates, and comically bad customer service. That’s long overdue and a positive thing overall, as streaming customer satisfaction scores suggest. In response, traditional cable TV providers have had to up their game, exemplified by this week’s launch of yet another streaming service by Comcast, dubbed “Peacock.”

The company unveiled the new streaming service this week, stating it should go live next April. And while no pricing details have been announced for non-cable subscribers, Peacock will be free to users that already subscribe to a traditional cable TV bundle from Comcast. According to Comcast, the new service and naming convention reflects a “proud and bold” persona for the nation’s least liked company:

“For us, it?s the perfect nod to the legacy without being too on the nose,? said Bonnie Hammer, chairwoman of the upcoming streaming service. ?From my point of view, it screams that we are proud and we are bold.”

Like the numerous other streaming services from AT&T, Disney, Apple, and others, Peacock is in a race to lock down as many exclusives to its platform as is humanly possible, which will include hits such as “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” as well as development of (yet another) “Battlestar Galactica” reboot by “Mr. Robot” creator Sam Esmail. Netflix had to spend $425 million to lock down Seinfeld as part of a five-year exclusivity deal. AT&T’s HBO Max has meanwhile secured all exclusive streaming rights to “Doctor Who” and “Friends.” The streaming exclusivity wars have begun in earnest.

But there’s one thing that remains overlooked as every company and its uncle rushes to deliver its own direct-to-consumer streaming service: subscription fatigue. Deloitte analysts have been using the term to describe the inevitable fatigue that will set in as users try to figure out which of their favorite shows are exclusive to which platform, which could come to annoy users despite the increase in new streaming options:

“But the plethora of options has a downside: Nearly half (47%) of U.S. consumers say they?re frustrated by the growing number of subscriptions and services required to watch what they want, according to the 13th edition of Deloitte?s annual Digital Media Trends survey. An even bigger pet peeve: 57% said they?re frustrated when content vanishes because rights to their favorite TV shows or movies have expired.

?Consumers want choice ? but only up to a point,? said Kevin Westcott, Deloitte vice chairman and U.S. telecom and media and entertainment leader, who oversees the study. ?We may be entering a time of ?subscription fatigue.'”

Granted one plus side with streaming is users can sign up for a service for a few months, binge watch to their delight, then cancel. But managing multiple subscriptions (and logins) while tracking the home of your favorite current, ongoing shows could prove annoying, and even moreso if the industry shifts (as many expect) to a harsher crackdown on those who share streaming passwords — something Netflix and HBO used to see as little more than free advertising, but has increasingly been confused with “piracy” by grumbly legacy executives at the likes of Charter Communications.

The end result? A slow but steady shift back to piracy among users that find subscribing to a half dozen streaming services too expensive, or hunting and pecking for their favorite paywalled content annoying. It’s an issue companies aren’t all that worried about as they rush to the competitive trough, but it’s likely to be a looming problem as the number of services and exclusivity silos grow.

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Companies: comcast

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Comments on “'Subscription Fatigue' Looms As Comcast Reveals Yet Another New Streaming TV Platform”

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37 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Banks should start offering services that cater to managing your streaming accounts and services. Right now I manage most of mine through Apple, but the streaming services don’t like that because Apple take their 15% cut. Being able to turn on and off what you’re paying for in an easy manner is a big plus for any streaming service.

One of the main reasons I will never use AMC’s A-List ever again is because they made me sit on hold for 30 minutes to cancel their service. I was planning on continuing to use their app and theaters because I liked it, and just paying for each movie I saw, but their shitty cancellation method made me immediately delete their app.

DannyB (profile) says:

Subscription Fatigue?

They haven’t even fully realized their evil genius plan yet.

The next step is that each new streaming service will require it’s own HDMI stick / device to be plugged into your TV.

Before long TVs will come with 32, then later 64 HDMI ports on the back. But 64 "channels" won’t be enough, so they’ll have 128 HDMI ports.

Of course, each HDMI device plugged into a port, probably also needs either a USB port or wall-wart power supply. (how many power strips is that?)

Next will come various gadgets and accessories to manage the nightmare of cables.

Oh, and each device for each streaming service, will, naturally, require its own remote!

I would reveal the ultimate plan of making you have a separate TV for each streaming service. But you didn’t hear that from me. They don’t think you’re ready to accept that yet. Not supposed to talk about that. You didn’t hear that. Nope. Nosiree.

Anonymous Coward says:

make it easy and it doesn't have to be cheap

hunting and pecking for their favorite paywalled content

This is my #1 complaint. Things are too hard to find.

I have a Roku and the search function on it is pretty good, but it could be better.

If I want to watch The Goonies it isn’t going to search for it on Hulu unless I already subscribe to Hulu. Instead, I wish it would find it then tell me I can subscribe for a month for $12.99 (or whatever it costs) and then boom – I can watch it and anything else on Hulu for the next month. The key for me would be that it doesn’t auto-renew month after month because there’s a chance I’m not going to watch any TV next month (other than baseball).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: make it easy and it doesn't have to be cheap

The answer, of course, is for the industry to club together and either create their own central repository, or agree on some standard by which sites like Just Watch always have the most accurate information. Consumers can then either follow the shows they want and adjust their subs accordingly, or make a decision on which site is best for them based on overall factors.

But, that involves actually competing rather than throwing money at locking up a single title, so they won’t do it. They’ll do what they always do – fragment the industry then whine when people don’t pay everybody and/or pirate.

SirWired (profile) says:

Be careful what you wish for...

For years, many consumer-advocacy outlets (including this one) have been demanding a la carte cable service.

Well, while this isn’t cable service, a bunch of disparate online streaming services, each with their own sets of programming and exclusives, is certainly the online equivalent of a la carte cable.

If you want a single subscription with just about everything you want to watch? Why, that’s called a content bundle, and it’s just what places like this have been saying they don’t want for years now, because it’s so expensive. (That content doesn’t create itself!)

And, of course, there’s usually (if not always) the option of purchasing content one program at a time, but that’s expensive. (It’s expensive because the content providers need to cover their losses on non-hits with the stuff people end up choosing. Yes, there’s ways around that subsidize-the-losses model, but that doesn’t involve content ever being cheaper for consumers.)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Be careful what you wish for...

"Why, that’s called a content bundle, and it’s just what places like this have been saying they don’t want for years now, because it’s so expensive"

No, they haven’t, that’s just what you wanted to hear. There were many other reasons, but you never listen to the people laying them out for you.

"Yes, there’s ways around that subsidize-the-losses model"

It’s not about subsidising the losses, it’s about subsidising crap you don’t want. I pay less than I used to at the moment, and have access to more content than I have the time to watch, but if it cost me the same or more and it means that I’m not also subsidising sports, "reality" TV, religion, and whatever other crap I not only don’t wish to watch but am outright opposed to, then I’m still happy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Be careful what you wish for...

A la carte is being able to go to one place, and select and (optionally) pay for the channels you want to watch. YouTube subscriptions are an a la carte system.

What is happening in the streaming world is bundling on steroids, where the popular content gets spread out across as many subscriptions as possible, and people have to subscribe to those services to get the few channels that they want, along with all the dross that they end up ignoring. The turd on top is the requirement for multiple apps to work through to try and find something you want to watch.

SirWired (profile) says:

Re: Re: Be careful what you wish for...

There is not some grand conspiracy to "spread out the popular content"; it’s not surprising that some providers have chosen a narrow "can’t miss exclusive content" model (it’s worked out pretty well for HBO) and others have chosen a "throw a whole pot of content spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks" model (Netflix).

Neither model is inherently good or bad. It’s a business decision, for an indiviudal provider, one you are more than welcome to agree with (by subscribing) or not (by refusing to do so.)

mhajicek (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Be careful what you wish for...

Consider Steam vs Epic for games. Epic will only distribute your game if you sign an exclusivity agreement. Steam does not pursue exclusivity.

Steam has a huge selection of games, but if you like you may find a better deal on GOG or another service for the same game. For me it’s worth paying a little more to have all my games in one launcher.

I want my streaming TV to be more like Steam and less like Epic.

Rocky says:

Re: Be careful what you wish for...

No, it isn’t the online equivalent of a la carte cable (which has never really existed in a meaningful way anyway). Real a la carte means you can pick and choose separate shows from different streaming services at a price-point that’s realistic for the consumers.

People would be overjoyed to have a single subscription with everything they want to watch, ie a real a la carte bundle and not the shitty, overpriced bundling that cable force-feed their customers.

What is happening now is that everyone are scrambling to create their own streaming service with exclusive content in a way that piss consumers off. They have foregone simplicity for the consumer in their battle for market-share in a market which has very little growth – there isn’t that much more money left to wring out of the content-consumers.

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Be careful what you wish for...

"For years, many consumer-advocacy outlets (including this one) have been demanding a la carte cable service."

Yup. Still waiting for that one.

"Well, while this isn’t cable service, a bunch of disparate online streaming services, each with their own sets of programming and exclusives, is certainly the online equivalent of a la carte cable."

No, it’s not. It’s the equivalent of the current cable bundles. I sign up for one bundle and I get hundreds of shows from dozens of networks when I really only want one of those. It’s not like cable has no options — you can subscribe to the sports package, or the movies package, or the music package, or the kids package, or a dozen others…just like you can subscribe to the Netflix package or the Hulu package or the Peacock package or a dozen others. But when I buy music, I don’t have to subscribe to ten thousand different artists just to hear the one guy I like. If I want one album, I buy one album. If I want one individual song, I buy just that one individual song. You still can’t do that for TV or movies, unless you buy the DVD box set several years later, and even that is only available for a select number of the most popular programs. I WISH buying TV one episode at a time as they’re released was actually an option as you seem to imply, but I’ve certainly never seen it.

Anonymous Coward says:

about time they realised that this continuous ripping off of customers eventually comes to an end and no amount of ‘Name Changing’ gets it back into ‘the good books’! the killing off of telecom services is dawning, as are tv, cable and mobile and the sooner the likes of Comcast realise that and stop keep trying to fight it, the better off it will be as a company and the better off will be customers. it’s a lesson that Hollywood, the MPAA, RIAA etc need to learn as well because their fighting of streaming services and the like is going to overtake their desire to keep selling physical disks. the public are losing patience more and more and to keep punishing us with higher prices and poorer services only speeds up the change!

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh, hey, Beefcake: nearing your 13th anniversary!

…says the troll with zero comment history because he can’t manage to use the same name twice. Practice what you preach you hypocrite.

Also, what the heck is the point of commenting regularly if you never reply and never engage in any discussion? You’re so critical of people who don’t come back often enough YET YOU JUST DROP YOUR GARBAGE HERE AND NEVER RETURN FOR IT EITHER! I’m still waiting for your comments on my reply on Sept 6th, back when you were apparently referring to yourself as "THE EYE OF DORIAN"

Dumbass.

Anonymous Coward says:

People need to look past the deals for Seinfeld and Doctor Who. With this expanded number of streaming services, a huge plethora of original series and movies are being funded. Anime streaming services are bringing more anime legally to international markets than ever before. Shows that were unceremoniously canceled or abandoned by TV networks have been revived. This is all for the purpose of competing with other streaming services for eyeballs and subscriber money. I’ll take this kind of competition over cable TV monopolies any day.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And which ones will you pay for this month? And next?

If every streaming provider offers just one show worth watching, is it really worth paying $20/mo for if you have to subscribe to half a dozen or more such services to get all the content you want?

Despite all the "original content" being produced almost none of it is worth even mentioning. The only difference between traditional cable and what we have for streaming today is that you can watch the least crappy show on your own schedule instead of theirs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I currently subscribe to Hulu, Netflix, Crunchyroll, and Amazon Prime. They fund enough original shows and acquire enough licenses to stream other shows for me to find something good and worth sticking with them from month to month without having to go anywhere else. I’ve been curious about Titans, Doom Patrol, and Young Justice Season 3, and am considering subscribing to DC Universe for a month to watch those shows and then cancel.

Please spare me the George Carlin-style "pretty much everything sucks, some stuff just sucks less" cynicism. It’s particularly hilarious to see scare quotes put around original content when that’s what it actually and factually is. If most of it sucked, nobody would be subscribing to any of these services or subscribing to cable at all.

MikeVx (profile) says:

Some of the major reasons to use streaming are going away.

Netflix was more likely looking when it had lots of movies and shows. Now all the companies are trying to splinter off their own services. For me, at least, this will not work.

For me, streaming would work better if services were created for classes/types/genres of programming. A Science Fiction/Fantasy channel for things like Lost in Space, Stranger Things, Dark Crystal, Good Omens, and the like. Sports streams for the sports fans. Streams for classic movie buffs. The Anime channels are doing this in a more sensible way.

I am not going to subscribe to your CBS/NBC/ABC stream, period. I will subscribe to an absolute maximum of 4 services under the present stratospheric pricing models. Give up on the insanity of your own service for all your program mix, and make shows to place on appropriately-themed streaming services.

Also, they need to stop importing all the terrible habits that drove me off broadcast and cable. I never used cable guide channels because they insisted on putting video on them. Pluto TV does this, and Netflix is terrible.

Mangling credits also keeps me away. Netflix shrinks them and makes you take action to read them. If the credits are timed just so, it is not possible to read some of them because if you back up far enough to see then, the shrinkage triggers again. Amazon has an obnoxious "Next episode" countdown at the and of series installments. They’ve gotten worse. A friend was showing me "Good Omens", and the lackwits are putting ads for their other shows on before the requested program starts.

I will not pay for this kind of abuse. There is no value in streaming services for me if they just do the same old rubbish that sent me away from the older systems.

Customer experience is a thing, and it seems that unofficial means have the edge there.

ryuugami says:

options

I don’t think that word means what people using it think it does.

A milk store, a bread store, a meat store, and a salad store are not "options". "Options" is having multiple grocery stores that each sell milk, bread, meat, and salad.

Fuck exclusives, fuck Comcast, fuck AT&T, fuck Disney, and since we’re in the neighborhood, fuck Epic too. May every single corp pulling this crap go bankrupt.

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