Let the wars begin (the end of the Golden Streaming Era)

With Apple Plus launching yesterday, and Disney Plus arriving a little more than a week from now, it’s time to mark and lament the end an era: The Golden Age of streaming.

Years from now we’re going to look back on the simple age, when virtually all the content was available on Netflix. When we cut the cord back in 2017, Netflix was the only subscription we were paying, then had Amazon Prime Video as an added bonus. Now it seems that every media conglomerates is going to stand up their own streaming service, walling off their content in hopes to shake a few more dollars out of us in yet another monthly subscription.

I’m taking this as an opportunity to re-inventory our TV costs and prioritize the streaming services as we watch the landscape change.

Pre-Cord Cutting Costs

  • DirecTV We were subscribed to whatever package gave us all the major sports channels, including NBCSN and NFL Network. Costs would fluctuate as they always ratcheted up the costs until you complained. ($115-145/mo)
  • Netflix The goldmine of back catalog content. We do a 5-stream family plan ($13/mo)
  • Amazon Prime Video We were Prime customers long before we consumed prime video and would remain Prime customers if the Video wasn’t there.

Total Pre-Cord Cutting Costs: $128-$158 per month

Pre-Streaming Wars Costs (Current Situation)

  • HULU + LiveTV: We’ve jumped back and forth between Sling, PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV, but are now currently using HULU to provide our live TV content. The primary reason we subscribe to a live TV package is to get sports. If there were (or is) a more cost-efficient service that offered ESPN, TNT + TBS (for NBA and MLB), NBCSN (for NHL) AND NFL Network – and no other channels – I’d go for it. Right now the Hulu streaming service gives the added benefit of Hulu content as well ($45/mo)
  • Netflix – we’re finding fewer and fewer reasons to keep watching Netflix. Truthfully my daughters watch it the most, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. ($16/mo)
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • CBS All Access: When new Star Trek is airing ($6/mo), otherwise I’ll cancel it right after the season finale ends.

Total Pre-Streaming Wars Costs: $61-67 per month

The Streaming Wars Costs and Priorities

Now with all of these segmenting services coming into play, we’re starting to look at prioritizing these streaming services and coming up with a few cut lines where we’d consider dropping a service or not subscribing all together.

The “Gotta Have It” Tier

1. LiveTV Streaming Service. Barring a significant price increase, or that all-encompassing sports deal unicorn, we’re probably going to stick with Hulu.

2. Disney Plus. This is where we’ll be redirecting my kids for their content, and the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel shows seem really appealing.

3. CBS All-Access. While it doesn’t seem like All-Access has panned out to be what CBS intended, they at least realize that there’s a demand for Star Trek, and if they keep producing relevant and quality Star Trek shows, I’ll keep forking over the amount for the minimum tier.

The “As long as you’re giving it to me…” Tier

4. Amazon Prime Video. We don’t really watching much on Prime Video, but as long as Amazon’s Prime 2-Day Shipping includes this service we’ll keep subscribing.

5. Apple Plus. We’re not sure their original content is going to be any good, and in the one day we’ve used the service, I’m appalled that they show you *a lot* of content that you may not have access to (like HBO and other premium channels), but if you’re going to give me a year for free by purchasing an iPhone, then we’ll keep your app installed on our Roku.

The “Having Second Thoughts” Tier

6. Netflix. I’ll be honest. I’m going to have a serious conversation with my family about whether we’re going to keep subscribing to Netflix, at least on a continual basis. Maybe we’ll check in twice a year to see if there’s anything worth checking out.

The “Not Even Considering It” Tier

7. HBO Max. It’s not coming until March, and at $15 is set to be one of the more expensive streaming services, but I’m not seeing much appeal to subscribe to these services, and ultimately I think this is going to scuff up the polish on the HBO prestige brand.

8. The NBC Peacock Streaming Service. I’m going to call my shot. This service won’t exist in the same form within two years. Despite being owned by Comcast, I think NBC is going to ultimately struggle with the logistics of running a good streaming service, and will find that it’s easier to just license their content elsewhere.

9. DC Universe. While I’m an avid comics fan, I don’t have the time to keep up with their exclusive (or non-exclusive for that matter) content.

10+ Any other services not mentioned above. I know there’s a lot of niche stuff out there, from ESPN+ to DAZN, but unless it’s free, we’re not interested.


It’s still worth being a cord-cutter right now, with the best part being that you’re not tied down to any commitments. As I mentioned with Netflix, if you have the ability to go month-to-month, I’ll be tempted to check in on a service for a month or two and see whether anything is compelling. My fear however is that some of these services may be tempted to pull people back into agreements, with the whole industry repeating the mistakes that drove their customers away.

Buckle up, the next several months should be interesting.

Goodbye Rdio, thanks for the memories

Sad to see this news about Rdio, the music streaming service that I’ve been using for years:

Rdio is shutting down and Pandora is buying up the scraps

Rdio

I’m especially sad because the truth is that I’ve been flirting with other music services over the years, and there are some key features that kept me coming back to Rdio. Now that it’s going away, I’m going to have to find another service that crosses off the most checkmarks when being compared to Spotify, Apple Music, Google Music, Amazon Prime and Microsoft’s Groove Music:

Remote Control Mode.  This has been the biggest differentiater between Rdio and other music services.  If you were running Rdio from one device (such as your computer or tablet), you could open the app on another device (like your phone) and remotely control all of the music.  This has been invaluable in many parties and game nights where I didn’t want to be tethered to the speakers all night.  I *think* Spotify may do something similar, but no services has been as elegant for me.

Family Plan Pricing.  If memory serves, Rdio was the first ones to feature this, and my family quickly took advantage of this, serving three accounts with one low payment. The other services have followed suit, but hats off to Rdio’s innovation in this area.

Last.fm Scrobbling.  As I’m fast approaching 60,000 scrobbles, this is paramount in my music consumption. I realize no one really uses Last.fm anymore, but as long as the service is around I’m deeply invested in the stats.  I know Spotify offers Last.fm integration, but I’m not sure if any other other major providers offer this (Google does through a hack).

Platform-Agnostic Apps. This is the deal-breaker. Rdio was ubiquitous across the internet. They came out the gate with the browser UI, then expanded to mobile apps, have a Windows 10 presence and even a Roku app.  Spotify is probably the most prominent in this space, but their browser-based UI didn’t compare to Rdio.  To make matters more frustrating, platform-based music systems (Apple, Google, Microsoft Groove and even Amazon) are more interested in using music to propagate their own platforms.

Playlist Lock-In. This is going to be the biggest frustration. I have dozens of playlists (not to mention my “collection”) within Rdio and now I’m going to be challenged to import that into another platform – although Soundiiz looks promising.

I’ve tried most of the major services and have a pretty good sense of the benefits and shortcomings in each

Apple Music: Loved Beats 1, but that was about it. While the selection is great, the interface is just awful. The deal-breaker is that in order to use it on PC you have to go through the bloated hog that’s iTunes.  The Android app is in an early (and ugly) beta, and it’s nowhere to be found on any TV platforms.  No remote control. I couldn’t cancel my free trial fast enough.

Microsoft Groove Music: Good interface and ubiquitous. The fact that it’s on Xbox makes it appealing as well – however the lack of Scrobbling and no family plan won’t let me take it seriously. I let the free trial lapse. No remote control.

Google Music/YouTube Red: This one is most murky, given the recent Youtube Red development.  On face value it looks like a great deal (ad-free YouTube along with Google Music Streaming, not to mention that you can upload 50,000 of your own songs to supplement the service).  However it’s not clear to me how their family plan works with YouTube Red, and you can’t Scrobble through the mobile apps. No remote control. I’m currently in the YouTube Red free trial, but will likely cancel.

Amazon Prime: As a Prime customer this has been a nice perk, but in no way will this be replacing Rdio.  The features just aren’t there.

Spotify: The most serious contender. They offer the platform ubiquity, the family plan pricing, Last.fm Scrobbling, (I think) a remote control. The interface is just so ugly.

So there we have it. Right now it really comes down to Spotify vs. Google Music, with a current edge to Spotify.  Writing all of this makes me really miss Rdio.  RIP to a wonderful music service.