Streaming wars make for tough decisions

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  • Opinion Columnist Taylor Lien discusses the dangers of relying on streaming services to archive and release content in its original form.

  • Opinion Columnist Taylor Lien discusses HBO Max and Disney+ as their respective launch dates approach.

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The streaming wars are ramping up every day with more and more announcements from new streaming services. As of last week, HBO unveiled their plans to launch HBO Max in May of 2020. Disney has been discussing launch of their streaming service for over a year, and it will be debuting next week. Much of the marketing and selling points of Disney+ is the sheer amount of properties that they own. From an industry standpoint this is very troubling, but for consumers, having the properties of so many companies will solve the question of which streaming services are worth subscribing to. However, HBO and its parent company, WarnerMedia Entertainment, will likely pose stiff competition to Disney+. Arguably, it will be one of the only streaming services whose library will be able to rival Disney’s.

Disney+ revealed hundreds of back titles as well as original programming in a Twitter thread, which will all be available on day one of the service, next Tuesday, November 12. Not to be outdone, HBO had a similar series of tweets detailing for different audiences what titles would cater to them. Disney may have Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilms, but HBO Max has Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, all of the Harry Potter films and that’s not even mentioning any of the kids programming, like the entire back catalogue of Sesame Street as well as new original programming featuring characters like Elmo.

Despite this launch being just over six months out, HBO seems keen to capitalize on those who may be trying to decide whether or not to sign up for Disney+. HBO Max is also a major blow to Netflix, since they are reclaiming streaming rights for many of the shows that have been the backbone of Netflix for years, such as “Friends,” “The West Wing” and more. HBO Max seems to encompass the best of Disney+ and Hulu with a price tag that rivals the monthly fee for both.

The question of which existing HBOGo and HBONow subscribers will have access to their service as a part of their subscription is also something to keep in mind. Since HBONow is available through platforms like AppleTV and Amazon Prime, deals will have to be struck in order to include HBO Max in those customers subscription.

Something to note for both Disney+ and HBO Max is their commitment to revitalizing classic films. With the loss of Filmstruck, a streaming service dedicated to classic and arthouse films, in 2018 and the lack of films before 1980 on most major streaming services, this is a huge win for the continued cultural relevance of classic films. The loss of old television shows and movies is often an unfortunate side effect of streaming and bringing older titles onto these platforms is a step in the right direction.

There will no doubt be standout projects from both services, but with the amount of back titles that will live on these platforms, it’s hard to say whether the services’ exclusive content will get much attention.  Their back catalogues, to some degree ,will likely render any original content they may produce to be rather moot.

The streaming wars are really just beginning and the next few months and years will reveal whether Disney or HBO will capture a larger portion of the streaming market. Both have strong libraries of content and for the consumer, the number of titles available has never been better. The hardest decision to make will be whether or not to subscribe and what to watch on both platforms.