Streaming video is the new gold rush in the media business, and 2019 will see the biggest increase in companies looking to strike it rich.
Ever since Netflix began to make original programming with “House of Cards” in 2013, TV has shifted away from traditional television towards streaming: After all, 2018 was the first year that online video accounted for the largest amount of scripted series.
Now that 2019 is upon us, the streaming world is set to get even more crowded, as mainstays Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the up-and-coming CBS All Access will be joined by the likes of WarnerMedia, Disney, Apple and maybe even Walmart and Comcast (if NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke’s cryptic holiday card is to be believed).
With so many more options in a marketplace that is quickly filling up, the battle for consumer dollars is only going to get more intense. “I don’t think any of them will fall down next year,” Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at media consulting firm TV[R]EV, tells TheWrap. “But I would be surprised in three years if they’re all standing.”
But for now, everyone is bullish on The Streaming Zone. Below, TheWrap sizes up the three main new entrants in the streaming arena for 2019:
Disney’s upcoming streaming service is the one with the most concrete details, although there is still no price point (though CEO Bob Iger has said it will be cheaper than Netflix) or a set launch date outside of fourth quarter of 2019. But the service has a name at least — Disney+ — and a slew of original content plans, which include both TV and films. Disney is banking on five key brands for Disney+: Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, National Geographic and its own vault of classic titles.
The biggest plans include a pair of “Star Wars” live-action TV shows: “The Mandalorian,” from Jon Favreau that will star “Game of Thrones” alum Pedro Pascal, and a “Rogue One” spinoff starring Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor character. Additionally, Marvel Studios will produce a TV series starring Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with future series potentially featuring Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
Other Disney+ content plans include a “High School Musical” and “High Fidelity” TV series (the latter starring Zoë Kravitz), and a “Lady and the Tramp” film starring Tessa Thompson, Justin Theroux and Janelle Monáe.
The only tricky thing for Disney+ will be getting its old content back while it waits out its current licensing deals. The biggest of those is with Netflix, which still has rights to Disney films from Marvel Studios and LucasFilm. Though its agreement with Netflix expired on New Year’s Day, that only means that Netflix won’t have access to anything Disney puts out going forward. For example, Netflix is still getting 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” later this year, but Disney+ should still launch with big titles including “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame” and “The Lion King,” with “Star Wars: Episode IX” arriving sometime in 2020.
AT&T’s WarnerMedia-branded streaming platform will launch with three levels of service. The platform, which is expected to debut in Q4 2019, will offer an “entry-level movie-focused” package, a “premium service” with original programming and blockbuster movies and a third service that bundles content from the first two, plus a library of WarnerMedia and licensed content. Pricing for the tiers was not specified.
While no specific content plans have been revealed, the still-unnamed service is expected to include content from HBO, Turner Sports and its studio, WarnerBros.
In September, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey hinted that HBO, which already has its own direct-to-consumer offering in HBO Now, would be a centerpiece, while Turner’s Kevin Reilly will lead the overall creative direction of the upcoming service.
The iPhone maker is perhaps the biggest mystery in the TV space in 2019, coming off an 18-month stretch where the company made a ton of series announcements.
Overall, the tech giant has more than 20 series planned — in 2018 alone Apple garnered a ton of attention for series pickups from the likes of J.J. Abrams (including an “Alias” reunion with Jennifer Garner), M. Night Shyamalan and even Sesame Workshop. That goes along with an untitled morning-show drama starring and produced by Reese Witherspoon, which will also feature Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell; an untitled project from “La La Land” and “First Man” director Damien Chazelle; a revival of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” anthology series, which Spielberg is producing.
And that’s just a small bite of the apple. The company also has development deals with Oprah Winfrey and “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin.
But there’s one problem: No one has seen anything yet, or even knows what kind of platform the projects will air on. It was reported last year that Apple is planning to launch some kind of streaming service this year, but the tech monolith has yet to confirm any official plans to do so.