Tech Savvy: Fracturing of streaming market means bundling inevitable

The market for streaming services is becoming more fractured and diverse, meaning customers may have to sign on for more than one service to get the shows they want.


People are pulling the plug. It’s no secret that consumers are leaving traditional cable providers in droves and taking up streaming services like Netflix instead, but are we running straight from one bundle to another bundle?

Here’s something to consider. Compared to the price for cable-bundles from the likes of Comcast, DirectTV or Spectrum — which can easily climb over $100 a month, depending on how things shake out — streaming services often fall in the $7 to $15 range, offering loads of content in a (typically) ad-free environment that’s user-friendly and absurdly convenient compared to watching TV in the past.

And, should you pull the plug, it’s just as easy as that — ending a membership can be as easy as hitting a button, which is worlds away from the rigmarole of fighting with company representatives over the phone to have your cable subscription cut. People hear the word “bundling” and they often roll their eyes, because it’s often bundling that sales reps are fighting tooth and nail for you to buy precisely when you’re trying to end ties with your cable provider.

But, here’s an uncomfortable truth, bundling — or, in this case, skinny bundling — looks to be making a return to our daily lives. The golden era of Netflix supremacy is coming to an end and, while consumers continue to pay for new content, the market for streaming is increasingly becoming more fractured and diverse. If you want the same lineup of favorite shows as you’ve enjoyed in the past, it probably means you’ll have to sign on for more than one streaming service.

Now, $7 to $15 may not seem like a serious financial consideration, even on a monthly basis, but nowadays people — as a general rule — aren’t as keen to fork over the kind of cash they would in the past for cable. Based on polling data, American consumers have stingy expectations for streaming costs, which may make the switch to skinny bundles more and more an attractive option.


In an October 2019 Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll of 2,329 adults, those surveyed stated a bill amounting to $21 for three services was the the optimal price point to attract subscribers, and more than 50% revealed they subscribe to at least one or two streaming platforms and 5% subscribe to five or six services.

Judging by an online survey of 100 people conducted by the Brainerd Dispatch, local participants overwhelmingly subscribe to Netflix to the tune of 78%, with Amazon Prime and Hulu rounding out the over 50% crowd at 74% and 52% respectively. YouTubeTV made its presence felt at 23%, while newcomer Disney+ exploded to 43% with barely three months under its belt — possibly, its memberships were buoyed by a package deal that came free with Verizon unlimited plans.

This local input points to the larger trends in the industry.

Netflix is by no means the only kid on the block like they were back in its mid-2010s heyday — especially not after an exodus of popular content like “The Office,” “Friends,” and others to new streaming services like NBC’s Peacock.

With that in mind, how does one narrow down their choices out of myriad options, from giants like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, to tiny niche platforms like BritBox for unapologetic anglophiles, Crunchyroll for your anime or manga needs, or DOGTV for...well, your dog to enjoy.


Right off the bat, let’s set those latter niche options aside. If you have a very specific itch to scratch when you binge, there are options out there. If — like the survey respondents mentioned above — you’re looking for a single platform or combination that gives you a large enough library to satisfy a variety of tastes, then let’s focus on the bigger options.


Clocking in at $8.99 per month for the basic package, $12.99 for standard high definition and $15.99 for its premium tier, Netflix is one of the more expensive options.

However, it does back up its price tag with an extensive and diverse catalogue of films and shows, with more and more of them original content the studio put together itself. Its user interface is also convenient and top-notch, though its algorithms can steer viewers into ruts of “similar content.”

Critics may point out that it’s varying levels of membership don’t always justify the cost, and it’s important to note the platform is losing some of its most popular flagship enterprises in the next few years, but Netflix is pouring more than $12 billion into original content and it looks to remain one of the frontrunners for the foreseeable future.

Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime may present a middling catalogue of shows and films — well, unless you want to cough up a bit more money to access its more extensive list of rentable content — but Prime’s $12.99 per month, or $119 per year options are more than worth it when you tack on free two-day shipping and electronic music or books, as well as the option to halve the membership if you’re a student.

In short, for the most part Amazon Prime as a streaming service isn’t anything special on its own. In the grand scheme of things, it’s just above average content-wise (though it has a decent assortment of original content) and it often lacks the big name draws of Netflix (or, soon, Peacock), and its user interface is adequate, if lagging behind Netflix a bit.

But, packaged together with the online shopping aspects of Amazon Prime, it may easily be the best bang for your buck.


The rundown on Disney+ is pretty simple. On one hand, it’s dirt cheap for a pretty respectable catalogue — a measly $6.99 per month — which only a corporate behemoth like Disney could afford to push from the onset of its launch last year.


On the other hand, Disney+ is to viewers what Disney has been to generations of Americans — a hulking monolith of joy for countless childhoods. As such, it’s important to remember that you can access the combined family-friendly ouvres of “Star Wars,” Marvel and Disney from across the decades, but if you’re tastes skew toward more mature entertainment, then it might not be your platform of choice.

Disney+ is also distinct in that it has largely retained an old-fashioned weekly release schedule, instead of the typical season by season dump that’s characterized Netflix and encourages people to binge.

It remains to be seen if Disney+ will branch out with its content. Just as likely, Disney may opt to leave its more adult offerings in Hulu — of which it has a significant stake — and pitch them in a package deal, as the entertainment supergiant has done.


Much like Amazon Prime, Hulu isn’t anything special on its own traditional streaming platform. Sure, it’s Netflix’s oldest competitor and it features a more respectable lineup of shows than Amazon Prime, although its main value is in alternative forms of media attached. Hulu’s value may rest primarily in the Hulu Live add-ons.

Want to watch a live NFL game? Sure. Want to catch up on the latest episode of Jeopardy without the usual wait period? Have at it. Have a hankering to watch your preferred news outlet give a rundown of the day’s events? This is your platform.

Look, Hulu comes in at $5.99, but that’s with ads which — perhaps we’re a bit spoiled — can be a teeth grinding experience when you’ve gotten used to HBO Now and Netflix over the years, but, don’t fret, ratchet that up to $11.99 and you can have the same experience ad free. Where it gets dicier is the cost for adding Hulu Live, which tacks on another $55 per month. Not a small consideration, but probably cheaper than your cable bill and a solid deal with the Hulu basic package.

For all that, Hulu remains a more flexible option for consumers than cable — you can, after all, cancel it at any time — and you have more choice in the specific channels you pay for over the likes of Comcast, but it’s traditional streaming capabilities won’t be anything worth writing home to mama about. If you’re going to get Hulu, it’s probably best to get Hulu Live.


Just as YouTube transformed the nature of mass visual media since its advent in 2005, YouTubeTV is oddly starting to look like the spiritual child of the old networks. In many ways, it’s like Hulu Live without the Hulu, a selection of live channels without the option of surfing through streamed shows.


Yes, it costs $50, which may seem a little — or a lot — too steep for what it has to offer, but YouTubeTV offers the cable TV experience, with 100 top-tier live channels from the likes of NBC, the Food Channel, Cartoon Network, Animal Planet, ESPN and beyond. The catalogue of live channels is unsurpassed in the streaming market.

The interface — much like its older counterpart, YouTube itself — is rather simple and easy to use. The main benefit, however, is the ability to see your favorite cable offerings on an online platform, although there are other more specific options, like FuboTV for sports nuts, or cheaper options, like SlingTV, if you’re willing to tone down the breadth of selection a bit.

Apple TV+

AppleTV’s current library includes about 10 original series, one nature documentary, a handful of kids' shows, as well as Oprah's Book Club. That’s miniscule compared to the lineup offered by the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu.

Not exactly a stirring lineup to say the least, even if the young streaming service is a paltry $4.99 per month.

There’s little reason for anybody to pick up this streaming service as it is now — except, say, you’re a Jason Mamoa fan and you just have to see him in the post-apocalyptic “See” — but Apple, as one of the “$1 trillion” ultracompanies on Earth, is more than capable of manhandling the cybersphere, even if its relatively uncharted territory. And, then, hey, you can get a year-long subscription free if you pair Apple TV+ with an Apple device, so there’s always that bundling angle as well.

As it is, viewers can rent some content like Amazon Prime and pay for add-on channels like CBS All-Access and HBO, but the rubber will really meet the road as projects by the likes of Stephen Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan continue to take off in the coming months. With that in mind, perhaps a better picture of Apple TV+’s potential will come to light.

Up and coming

Much more could be written on the likes of NBC’s Peacock and HBO Max slated to come out in the coming months.

Peacock should come out of the gate swinging with a selection of legacy content like “Friends,” “The Office,” as well as new twists on “Battlestar Galactica” and “Saved by the Bell” that put the upstart on par with Netflix, at least in terms of shows.


HBO Max will likely continue the tradition of grittier, no holds barred TV that’s defined HBO since its pay-per-view inception and its “Game of Thrones” heyday the last couple years, with a decent catalogue of shows, both new and legacy stuff held over from the cable days.

How much they will ultimately cost is the question, and until they emerge, it’s difficult to say how their configuration will factor into the larger experience.

These considerations will be made as people look to piece together a lineup of platforms, or bundle subscriptions, in a way that meets their entertainment needs.

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at .
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