TV Streaming Has Become Fragmented
One of the biggest gripes many people have with modern entertainment is that it’s fractured into tiny pieces. While many moons ago, it used to be possible to get all your TV shows in one or two different places, a modern diet of soaps, cartoons, movies, and sports is likely to run you hundreds of pounds over a number of different platforms.
Of course, plenty of entrepreneurs have tried to solve this problem, while almost always making things slightly worse for embattled viewers.
It’d be easy to believe that online streaming is a bit of a closed street. After all, streaming is very much the domain of major corporations today, inclusive of Amazon, News Corp (Hulu), Apple, and Netflix.
However, small scale services are more common than you might think. Anybody who has ever watched a documentary on YouTube will be aware of MagellanTV and CuriosityStream, for instance, while Facebook ads do reveal the completely free (ad-supported) PlutoTV from time to time.
Is it really that simple to start your own streaming platform, though? In many industries, the quiet spread of new platforms and products is due to something called democratisation. The tools to create things are more accessible than ever before, and nobody really needs to create bespoke software in areas like gaming, animation, digital art, and music.
In fact, this open ecosystem has even trickled down to much less visible industries such as betting, where a company called Pronet Gaming provides an off-the-shelf retail solution for casinos and sportsbooks. This kind of service is designed to slot into existing projects but can be used as the basis for new businesses, too. The example provided by Pronet Gaming (and Unity for video gaming, Mixamo for animation, etc.) brings up an obvious question – is the same possible for new streaming services?
Well, the answer isn’t quite as easy to provide as in the previous industries but taking a look at other, existing platforms does offer some clues. Knowing your audience is one of the biggest obstacles to getting an alternative to Netflix off the ground as it will influence even the earliest decisions you take, from branding to content selection. For Netflix, which has a scattergun approach to content, this issue isn’t quite so pronounced. Short-lived rival Quibi found no audience whatsoever, though.
Quibi was designed to offer short snippets of content, which a) slotted it into the same niche as YouTube and b) somehow offered nothing of interest. Bite-sized media isn’t a problem in isolation but ideas rarely sell on their merits alone.
This brings us to one of the major difficulties with streaming services – acquiring content. Netflix pays between US$40,000 and US$500m for licenses to show films and TV shows, which means that indie productions offer one of the few solutions for this critical need.
The good news is that this is exactly how Netflix began its online service. It was funded by its rental business, though, which helped stave off any financial problems caused by expansion into what was a bit of an untested niche, back in 1999.
Overall, it’s not the rosiest of outlooks for anybody interested in starting their own streaming platform but the possibility exists for the bravest of individuals.
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