Who Will Win the Streaming War? (Hint: You Will)

Billy Ferguson/Fourth Estate


Apple recently announced Apple TV+, a movie and tv streaming service that will compete with Netflix, Amazon and others. The company reportedly spent nearly $2 billion creating new content featuring big-name actors and directors to attract users to the new platform, which is set to launch in the fall of 2019. With this launch, Apple is entering a fiercely competitive field. In order to keep its title as the king of streaming, Netflix will be spending around $15 billion this year on its programming.

Without the threat of new entrants into the streaming business, Netflix wouldn’t have to dedicate such large amounts of money to producing new shows. But, with so many services competing for membership, every company has to step up its game or risk losing its customers to its competitors.

Some people have expressed dismay at the growing number of streaming services. They fear that they will be forced to have dozens of subscriptions just to see the shows that they want to watch.

It’s true that in order to have access to every show on the planet, you would have to subscribe to every streaming service on the planet. But the emergence of new streaming services means more new shows, even for people who don’t subscribe to them. Netflix customers who choose not to purchase Apple TV+ will still be better off after Apple enters the streaming market, because Netflix will be spending more on new shows to compete with Apple.

The streaming wars are a perfect example of the ability of markets to give people what they want. Before there was streaming, formulaic network television content was beginning to feel stale. Big TV networks were less likely to approve of shows that had unique and untested concepts, and their executives often intervened in the creative process.

Online streaming allowed riskier, more original shows to have a chance at finding an audience. The success of streaming platforms depends on their ability to provide shows that their viewers want to watch, which means that the harder they compete, the better their content will become.

Even if you aren’t at all interested in signing up for Apple’s new streaming service, you should still be excited by the fact that it is coming out. Now, whatever streaming service you currently use will be forced to spend billions of dollars just to compete for your attention. You will have access to a library of even more big budget shows without having to spend any more money.

It isn’t clear who will end up with the most subscribers as Apple, Netflix and others duke it out over the next couple years. But, it is clear that everyone who subscribes to any streaming service will be able to watch more high-quality shows than before, making all of us the true winners of the streaming war.