Following a period of uncertainty, in which AT&T promised to announce a streaming service that seemed it would never see the light of day, details are finally starting to trickle out as to what consumers can expect in the coming year. With a potential 2019 launch against staunch existing competition, the success of such a platform is far from guaranteed.
A Long, Slow, Streaming Burn
Back in October, initial news broke regarding AT&T’s WarnerMedia branch working on an upcoming streaming service without much in the way of details. The only big selling point the service has that has been confirmed is the inclusion of HBO, though the service would not become the only way to access HBO content, making it less of a must-have draw and more of an alternative route towards HBO content.
Interestingly enough, the announcement did specify CNN and its live news services would not be included, though it did speculate the inclusion of network programming and movies from the Turner library being made available on demand for subscribers.
Part of this streaming plan has led to the shutdown of several smaller, niche streaming services that fell under the umbrella of the AT&T/Time Warner merger earlier this year. CrunchyRoll, an anime-oriented streaming service, remains one of the few unaffected by the merger and seems slated to remain its own entity for the time being.
It’s unsurprising that AT&T would move towards unifying its products under one banner to remove brand confusion and simplify issues like payment processing and subscriber bases. It’s even less surprising to see Shudder disappear from Amazon’s streaming services. All signs point towards a full-fledged launch of a platform with varied content, but one does have to wonder if this move will see the end of smaller content providers as the situation develops.
Their content plan seems to include a newly announced tier system that splits up content between three separate tiers. Tier one is slated to include WarnerMedia’s film catalog, as initially expected back in October, and the second tier is planned to include TV series and big-budget movies, most likely Hollywood blockbusters which are stil several years out of theatres. If customers want HBO, the third tier seems to be where the big money will go, as it may include third-party content created for the platform in the coming years.
Cable and satellite television providers have long thrived off of tiered services and this seems like another step towards bumping up pricing schedules and bumping fees ever higher as these content providers are often keen on doing. On the other hand, if this streaming service does take off and it provides extra revenue through HBO to fund more high-budget programming in the style of Game of Thrones, the price hike may wind up being worth it. With any luck the initial estimate of a $20 subscription fee would make access to HBO content far cheaper than going through traditional providers, assuming that price point was slated for the most expensive tier.
On the downside, the slow slide towards each provider offering its own streaming service is taking a turn towards internet freedom issues with AT&T’s merger giving the company a built-in reason to prioritise traffic through to its streaming services while pumping the brakes on its competitors. Even those with the good fortune to fall in a favourable position under an NBN map may start feeling the pains of slowed video streams without government oversights.
Yet many of these potential pitfalls and boons are still up in the air. AT&T’s plans seem to be forming fairly quickly and the promised ocean of content should provide plenty of entertainment, assuming the price is right. All that remains is to see if Disney’s streaming plans shake-up AT&T’s price points and tier system or if Netflix steps up their offerings to try and remain competitive in the face of new hardships.