From £25m per episode on the final season of Stranger Things, to north of £380m for The Rings Of Power’s debut, it’s been a year of exciting budgets as streaming services vie for our attention.
But while there’s never been so much blockbuster content to watch, there is the cost of living crisis means for an increasing number of households that there has never been so little money to spend.
Since the start of the year, close to one million UK households have given up streaming services – meaning they don’t even have an active subscription, according to research from Kantar Worldpanel.
And after platforms from Netflix to Amazon Prime announced price increases during 2022, Google search trends suggest a year-over-year increase in people looking up “how to cancel” their subscriptions.
Sky News spoke to industry experts about what streaming services could look like to hold our attention in 2023.
Most households still have at least one active streaming subscription despite the surge in cancellations, but the days when most of us were signed up to a bunch at the same time may be numbered.
“The all you can eat model that has served this space well is starting to take off,” says Oscar Wall, European managing director of Recurly, which works with the likes of Paramount+ and Twitch.
“If you’ve got Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and you’re only watching two or three shows on each, you start to feel like you’re paying £100 a month for all these services, are you really getting £100 worth?”
The answer may be to transfer the content to separate subscriptions, such as a Star Wars-only Disney+ team.
Less privacy for users
Another way to offer cheaper deals is through advertisements.
After years of treating them as taboo, Netflix and Disney+ both ended 2022 with ad-supported tiers (although it hasn’t gotten off to a good start for the former).
Disney advertising president Rita Ferro told Reuters news agency that more than 100 brands had signed up, and they will target customers by region, age and gender.
Until now, streaming services had used our data to make recommendations and inform their content selection, but ads mean that – as with social media – it’s more likely to end up in the hands of third parties.
Love them or hate them, NFTs – essentially the idea of having ownership of a unique digital product, like a piece of art or virtual clothes for an avatar – has become a large part of online discourse this year.
Martin Warner, CEO of independent streaming service Flix Premiere, believes they have a role to play in his industry, comparing them to a gift shop after the ride at an amusement park.
“Whether it’s a script, a director’s cut, a set of production stills – it can be a great place to go and align with TV and movies and foster a sense of community on your platform,” he told Sky News.
“I bet Disney would absolutely do this.”
An end to the binge model
The early days of Netflix completely changed the way we consumed a TV series, and now we could devour everything in an afternoon instead of waiting week by week.
But whether it’s Amazon’s Rings Of Power or Disney’s Marvel series, week-to-week viewing is back in vogue – and Netflix experimented by splitting Stranger Things and its Harry and Meghan docu-series I bite.
“Separating the season of Stranger Things felt like a test,” says David Ingham, head of media, entertainment and sports at consultancy Cognizant.
“They didn’t want you to sign up, binge, leave — and I think they’re hoping that will be something that keeps people there.”
Return of bundles
Bundled services have been a proven concept for years – as one company that handles your phone line, internet and main TV package.
Streaming services may explore their own unique bundling opportunities in the coming year, Mr. Wall said
“It could be content bundled with passes to theme parks, credits to buy movies in theaters, things like that,” he said.
Another package option would be to include the right to password sharing, which Netflix is reportedly preparing a significant discount on in 2023 – potentially charging extra for the privilege.
Meanwhile, Google has struck a $2bn (£1.7bn)-a-year deal with the NFL to show live games through YouTube TV, including as an “add-on” bundle-style subscription. Expect big tech to continue chasing sports rights this year.