Last week brought the news that Amazon and NBCUniversal had struck a deal to add more shows to Amazon's Prime Instant Video service, including past seasons of Parks and Recreation, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Heroes, and the 2004-2009 Battlestar Galactica series. It's the latest move in the battle of the major digital multimedia distribution services—iTunes, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Hulu, and the embattled Netflix (remember Qwikster?), which at least for now has rebound to boast the number one market share position on a revenue basis. Last year also "marked a sea change ... a shift from a DVD-like transactional model to more TV-like subscription approach," according to the research firm IHS iSuppli, who also noted:
Netflix and the subscription market at large shouldn't expect more years of banner revenue growth, noting that "Netflix's customer transition is now complete."
Netflix's new problem could lie in that its streaming catalog now feels stagnant compared to that of its mail-order library, which in turn feels stagnant compared to pay-per-view services like Google Play and Amazon Prime, who are now featuring titles while, or in some cases even before, they're in theaters. But that's by design; Netflix sees itself as a compliment to pay-per-view, a legacy service that fills out your back-catalog wants. It's beneficial for them because the licensing is cheaper.
The company has upped its new-content game of late with original series like Lilyhammer and the upcoming Orange Is the New Black, a comedy from Jenji Kohan, the creator of Showtimes’s Weeds, and last year's acquisition of the forthcoming Arrested Development revival. But these investments are costly and time-consuming measures in a rapidly-developing market that's now in the process of going international.
Netflix and Hulu are both subscription-based services. Like iTunes, Amazon Prime is a hybrid, charging $79 a year for unlimited streaming of some titles and additional rental fees for premium content. Google Play charges for rentals. Then I'm sure there's at least one service I'm forgetting. Assuming a normalization of the market, everyone's prices will eventually fall into line with demand, so as the big players carve out their more permanent share, the real question becomes one of programming. There are other considerations, of course: iTunes is favorable to Mac users, each service is tied to its corresponding cloud service, there are mobile considerations, music, books, and even magazines available, all of which brings us to the inevitable scientifically ironclad Slog poll:
What service do you use for entertainment in 2012?