Everyone’s Wrong About the Streaming Wars

It’s not a zero-sum game for Apple TV+, Netflix, and Disney+

Mike Raab


Image: Mike Raab

TThe so-called “streaming wars” heated up once again this week, with AT&T announcing more details about HBO Max, Apple TV+ launching on Friday, and Disney’s marketing blitz kicking into high gear for the November 12th launch of Disney+. For months now, journalists, industry insiders, and consumers have opined on who will “win” the streaming wars and why. What’s missing from most of these thought pieces is what will happen to all the streaming services that don’t “win”?

Here’s the thing: media isn’t a zero-sum or winner-take-all market. While they’re all competing for consumer attention (and dollars), the success of one subscription service does not mean inevitable failure for the rest. At an eventual steady state, some networks will, of course, have more subscribers than others — just as linear channels, whether broadcast or cable, have always had different levels of viewership.

Think about it. Does the fact that there were four broadcast networks mean that one of them eventually prevailed, and the others disappeared? No. Was there a cable channel war resulting in one dominant cable network? No. Multiple entrants competing on the same turf and terms could survive. Of course, some have more viewers or more popular content at…