In 2007, people rolled their eyes when Netflix first decided to stream movies rather than just mail you DVDs. But fast-forward about a decade, and it’s hard to remember when we weren’t all binge-watching “Stranger Things” or sharing our streaming-service passwords.
Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other streaming apps now generate an incredible amount of original content — 160 scripted shows, almost a third of the record 495 on all of TV, according to FX Networks Research.
Thirty-three million Americans cut the cord on cable in 2018, so it’s as no surprise that more companies want in on the streaming game. Here are some of the new streaming options you’ll have in 2019, and how they plan to break into an already crowded market.
-- The strategy: Disney owns your childhood (and probably your present and future), so it’s betting you’ll pay up for your favorite shows and movies.
-- Cost: Supposedly lower than Netflix’s $8-$14-per-month fee.
With so many brands under the Disney umbrella, it’d probably be easier to name the franchises that don’t belong to the House of Mouse. From powerhouses like Star Wars and Marvel to animated classics like “The Lion King,” Disney has a massive stable of beloved shows and movies to attract subscribers to its new Disney+ streaming platform. On top of that, it’ll also be creating new shows with big names attached.
Netflix has a lot to lose in this competition. Disney content makes up 8 to 12 percent of Netflix’s total viewership in the United States, according to estimates from video-measurement firm 7Park Data. (Netflix itself doesn’t release official viewer numbers.) Once the pair’s distribution deals come to an end, all of that content will be available only on Disney+ — as will upcoming releases, like this year’s “Captain Marvel.”
The planned Disney-Fox merger will also make Disney the majority stakeholder in Hulu, but don’t expect too much crossover there. Disney+ will focus on five family-friendly brands: Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and National Geographic. Hulu will get other properties that don’t fit that mold, like its show “The Handmaid’s Tale” or Fox’s “Deadpool.” Fox Searchlight and FX could also produce new, adult-oriented original content for Hulu.
-- Notable original shows
Star Wars: Two original prequel series are already set, including one that’ll be directed by Jon Favreau and named “The Mandalorian.”
Marvel: Tom Hiddleston will feature in a Loki miniseries, and Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier and Falcon might also be getting shows.
Nostalgic reboots: What team? Wildcats! Disney will be adapting movie franchises like “High School Musical” and “Monsters Inc.” into new TV series.
-- The strategy: You get free shows! And you get free shows! Everybody gets free shows! (But only if you buy our products.That’ll be $1,000 for an iPhone, please.)
-- Cost: Free if you own an Apple device.
Apple’s upcoming service will offer both original content and special access to existing services like HBO. What’s key, however, is its plan to make its original content completely free to all Apple device users. Apple currently offers shows like “Carpool Karaoke” behind a paywall, but the upcoming TV app will come pre-installed and free of fees.
But since its content is free, Apple has to be extra careful with what it produces — which is why it’s reportedly focusing on PG-rated shows. No “Game of Thrones” gore here.
Apple planned to spend $1 billion on original content in 2018. It’s already getting attention for some of the big names it has attracted, and the first shows could drop as early as March.
-- Notable partnerships
Oprah Winfrey: Apple announced a multi-year partnership to create programs “that embrace [Oprah’s] incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”
Reese Witherspoon: Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company will be producing three series so far, including a splashy drama about a TV morning show, starring Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell.
Steven Spielberg: Spielberg’s Amblin Television and NBCUniversal will partner with Apple to reboot Spielberg’s 1980s anthology series “Amazing Stories,” a fantasy-horror cult classic.
-- The strategy: Facebook already knows everything about you. Now it’s using that info to personalize your viewing experience.
-- Cost: Free; videos are monetized using ads.
Facebook has been dealing with mounting privacy headaches in recent years, but its Facebook Watch platform wants to use the information it already has on you to entice you to stay tuned. Video recommendations are personalized based on what you and your friends are already watching. You can also organize a Watch Party if you’re the admin of a Facebook group, allowing you to all watch and comment on a show at the same time.
According to a survey in August, 50 percent of adult Facebook users weren’t even aware of the streaming service, though it had been available for a year. Still, Facebook is betting big on its streaming platform — it was expected to spend $1 billion to $2 billion on original content in 2018, and it renewed four of its original series for 2019 (it plans to have all content made by third-party partners).
-- Notable original shows
Dramas: “Sorry for Your Loss,” starring Elizabeth Olsen, and “SKAM Austin,” a teen drama, got positive reviews and were renewed for second seasons.
Talk shows: Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk”has been particularly buzzy this year for its revealing conversations with celebrities.
Reality shows: Facebook is partnering with MTV and Bunim-Murray Productions to re-invent “The Real World.”
-- The strategy: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s TV shows, movies, comics, an encyclopedia, a shop, forums and basically all the content a comics fan could want.
-- Cost: $7.99/month or $74.99/year.
Unlike the other three companies already mentioned, DC is aiming to go deep with a specific audience rather than wide for a general one. DC Universe, which launched in September, is primarily for comics and superhero fans. In addition to TV shows and movies, it features a digital archive of comics that you can read online (basically DC’s version of Marvel Unlimited). There’s a community forum for fans to chat, an online shop where you can buy collectibles and even an encyclopedia of DC superheroes.
DC Universe already debuted one original show — “Titans,” whose reviews are 83 percent positive, according to Rotten Tomatoes — and has plans for more. But its library currently has obvious gaps. DC’s recent live-action movies, like “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League,” have their streaming rights tied up at HBO. CW TV shows, like “Arrow” and “Supergirl,” are locked in at Netflix.
-- Notable original shows
Titans: The live-action series is a violent take on the Teen Titans comic series, featuring Robin/Dick Grayson as a cop who’s trying to get out of Batman’s shadow.
Doom Patrol: The Doom Patrol team was introduced in Episode 4 of “Titans” and will have its own spin-off starring Timothy Dalton and Brendan Fraser.
Swamp Thing: “Aquaman” director James Wan is an executive producer of this show about a part-human-part-plant creature who fights to protect both humans and the environment.
There are a few other companies that’ll be expanding their digital TV platforms:
-- Amazon: The service might be called Amazon Free Dive and will focus on an older catalogue of licensed TV shows. It’ll be offered separately from its Prime Video service but will be available on Amazon Fire TV devices.
-- WarnerMedia: The company is planning a platform that would likely include shows and movies from the likes of Warner Bros., TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and maybe even HBO.
-- Walmart/Vudu: Walmart will be offering new (and, likely, its own original) content either as part of Vudu, a pay-per-view streaming service it bought in 2010, or as a stand-alone service.