As a TV- and video-streaming service, Netflix has always reigned supreme, offering popular movies from ’80s classics to recent favorites, foreign and domestic TV shows and popular originals, including “Stranger Things” and the new, critically acclaimed “Roma.” But a streaming war is brewing as more companies compete to rise to the top, and one of them is Apple.
Recent price changes have hit the streaming world as the war rages, but Netflix seems to be the only service raising all of its prices. A basic Netflix plan, which allows users to stream from one device in standard definition, has risen from $8 to $10 a month — meaning customers will be paying $120 a year as opposed to $96.
The standard plan, which allows streaming on two devices at a time in high definition, has gone from $11 to $13 — also a $24-a-year increase — and its premium plan spiked from $14 to $16, which means instead of paying $168 dollars a year, customers will pay $192 for streaming on four devices at once in high, standard or ultra-high definition.
On the other hand, Hulu has dropped its ad-supported streaming service price from $7.99 to $5.99 a month — saving users $24 a year — while its ad-free streaming service will remain the same. Hulu with live TV, however, will increase from $39.99 to $44.99 a month — a $60 yearly increase — but all changes will go into effect for existing subscribers after the next billing period in late February.
YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) has also cut back on prices, offering significant discounts to U.S. college students — slashing prices nearly in half from $12.99 to $6.99 a month.
One of the reasons Netflix is increasing its prices — with 2019 witnessing the biggest price increase since Netflix got its start — is because of all its new, expensive content. The New York Times explains the streaming service’s increasing prices: “The company’s appetite for content means it has to spend big, resulting in what’s known as negative free cash flow. More money is going out the door than coming in, a difference that Netflix covers by borrowing even more.”
Although the price spike is understandable on Netflix’s part — its content is top quality, and quality is reflected in price — the CEO of Disney, Bob Iger, says Disney’s upcoming streaming service, Disney+, which is expected to launch in late 2019, will cost “substantially less” than Netflix.
Disney+, or Disneyflix in some circles, has been the talk of the streaming war, as it will rip Netflix of all Disney-related content, including the Marvel Universe that found a home there for a while in form of “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage,” and plans to produce its own originals, such as an animated series based on “Monsters, Inc.”
In order for Netflix to survive the streaming war, it has to produce more of its own content and have a slew of original movies and shows planned for release until 2022 — including an animated film “The Willoughbys,” starring Maya Rudolph, Will Forte and Martin Short, set for release in 2020, and a Guillermo del Toro-directed “Pinocchio” in 2021 — but Apple streaming might still give Netflix and Disney+ a run for their money.
Apple is expected to launch its service this spring, well before Disney+, but Apple has been keeping the details of its new service on the hush. Still, there’s enough information around to get people excited, including pricing and content, with many reports claiming that Apple might make its original content free to those who own an Apple device. Although Apple has yet to confirm the reports that have been circulating, many anticipate that Apple will make its originals available through the TV app or Apple TV.
The question arises: If Apple’s streaming service is free, how will it turn a profit? The answer could be that instead of profiting off of the viewer, Apple could be paid by subscriptions like HBO, as Apple receives a portion of another service’s revenue if users sign up for it through Apple’s storefront.
Beyond Apple being possibly the most accessible of all streaming services in the midst of a streaming war and competitive pricing, Apple’s original content is highly anticipated, as the company invested $1 billion in 2018 to create and launch deals with some of the biggest names in the entrainment industry, including the entertainment company A24, known for “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird,” “The Witch,” “Tusk,” “The Spectacular Now” and many others.
Apple has already struck gold with Oprah Winfrey and the creators of “Sesame Street” to develop new shows, and it has already landed a thriller series with M. Night Shyamalan, a series from “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, another series from “Battlestar Galactica” creator Ron Moore and a morning show with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston.
Apple also plans to adapt the classic Isaac Asimov’s science fiction series, “Foundation” — where planet Earth is forgotten by the human race who now lives in a galactic empire and is on the verge of a major disaster, with one man trying to persevere their knowledge before the new Dark Age.
Apple also plans to reboot the ’80s fantasy, horror and science fiction anthology show “Amazing Stories,” which was created by Steven Spielberg, as well as a new dystopian “The Hunger Games”-style show, called “See.” Apple bought the rights to Jada Pinkett Smith and director Minhal Baig’s coming-of-age story, “Hala,” which shatters Muslim stereotypes and debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
If any of these deals indicate what Apple is bringing to consumers and the streaming war, it obviously has a lot to hype up. Still, the streaming service will have to compete with the megalithic dominance of Netflix, Hulu and Disney, which already have established track records in the industry.