PC Magazine

THE NEW ENTERTAINMENT GIANTS: WELCOME TO THE CONTENT-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

Jeffrey Cole thinks the consumer “is about to get screwed.”

For millions of viewers, our primary means of entertainment has shifted from movie studios and traditional cable providers to video streaming services and the seemingly infinite piles of content they beam to every device with a screen. Now, as corporate battles fortify the streaming landscape into walled-off apps, consumers are faced with a growing number of monthly subscription options to access each service’s exclusive shows and movies.

“Consumers have gotten a phenomenal deal: $10 a month from Netflix to get the studio television shows, the originals, and movies from Paramount, Warner Bros, Universal, Disney; the list goes on,” said Cole, a research professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and Director of USC’s Center for the Digital Future. “In three years, they’ll have to pay $40 or $50 to replicate that” across several services.

He’s not wrong. Newly melded media conglomerates and powerful Silicon Valley players, including Apple, are gearing up to battle Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu with their own standalone streaming services. Every time a new one crops up, the promise of cord cutting—replacing hundreds of channels you never watch and hefty cable bills with one streaming service that costs $10 per month—becomes less tenable.

This merging of new and old was on display in January, when Netflix joined the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), an organization that’s long been synonymous with big-budget entertainment—Disney, NBCUniversal, Paramount, Sony, 21st Century Fox, and Warner Bros. “All of our members are committed to pushing the film and television industry forward, in both how we tell stories and how we reach audiences,” MPAA Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin said at the time.

But as the MPAA opens its doors to the company that upended the power balance in the entertainment world, the companies it disrupted are merging, consolidating, and rolling out competing streaming services to take on their deep-pocketed Silicon Valley rivals.

Every time a new streaming service launches, the promise of cord-cutting becomes less tenable.

In this PCMag Digital Edition cover story, we break down the escalating war for original content and the tectonic shifts in an industry that’s straddling the media, tech, and entertainment worlds. We spoke to execs from Amazon Prime Video, CBS, Disney, and Hulu, as well as experts and analysts. Netflix declined multiple interview requests; HBO and Turner initially agreed to participate but dropped out amid corporate upheaval and executive shuffles.

THE RACE TO BEAT NETFLIX

Despite—or more aptly, because of—Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu’s collective dominance, newly melded media conglomerates and powerful Silicon Valley players like Apple are gearing up to launch their own standalone streaming services in the next year.

One imposing shadow on the horizon is Disney, fresh off its $71.3

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