2019 Preview: Disney, WarnerMedia SVOD services to shake up competitive landscape

Disney+ is coming in 2019. (Disney)

Editor’s Note: This article is part of our 2019 Preview feature, which looks at the big topics facing the industry next year. Click here for the 2019 preview in the wireless industry, click here for the 2019 preview in the video industry, and click here for the 2019 preview in the wireline industry.

Like it or not, 2019 will be filled with the recurring narrative of how Netflix can maintain its dominance over the U.S. SVOD market as Disney and WarnerMedia prepare their competing services.

In some ways it’s disingenuous to compare Netflix with other subscription streaming services. Netflix started as a DVD service and then evolved into a streaming service and licensed networks’ most valuable content to build a subscriber base. Soon, the company realized that strategy wouldn’t be sustainable forever, and so it began funneling more and more money into original content. Now Netflix is throwing billions per year at original content and building a massive library.

Disney and WarnerMedia are legacy media companies that are realizing there’s money and valuable, direct customer relationships to be had in subscription streaming services, so they’re putting their massive content libraries to work toward that goal.

Despite the differences, all three and many more will soon be competing for spots in many cord-nevers’ and cord-shavers’ makeshift channel bundles, as well as vying for pay TV subscribers’ leftover entertainment budget.

Both Disney+ and the WarnerMedia streaming service are launching in the back half of 2019. Disney+ is planning to roll plenty of library content—including its popular Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars films—in with original films and series on its service. WarnerMedia is betting subscribers will pay for access to Warner Bros.’ deep archive of films and television shows along with access to HBO originals.

Other streaming services are launching in 2019, as well. DirecTV is working on a fuller streaming product, Sinclair is planning to launch STIRR in early 2019 and Comcast/NBCUniversal likely has something up its sleeve. But right now, it’s Disney+ and WarnerMedia drawing the most attention for how they might disrupt Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other major streaming services.

If Disney, Fox, WarnerMedia and others stop licensing their shows and movies to Netflix and others, it could result in a drastic reduction in content hours for streaming services. There’s also a finite number of streaming services any one person will sign up for, so if Disney+ and WarnerMedia fits in with their ideal bundle, Netflix, Amazon or Hulu may have to go.

But the reality is that it may take years for any of those scenarios to make a material impact on Netflix or any other major streaming service. With cord cutting reaccelerating, there’s seemingly more and more people looking toward nontraditional pay TV options for entertainment. In 2019, the world will still be big enough for Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and WarnerMedia. But beyond that, it could be a different story. — Ben | @fierce__video