Time for a Reality Check Among TV’s Streaming Services

A Deadly Adoption
Courtesy of Lifetime

In the burgeoning world of subscription VOD, all ventures are not created equal.

That’s a notion easy to lose sight of in 2015 as one TV network after another pushes out an over-the-top extension that makes programming available without requiring consumers to pay for a multichannel subscription. The latest is Lifetime, which unveiled a new branded SVOD play Thursday that offers 30 original movies for $4 per month.

Lifetime Movie Club is bound to get lumped in with the growing roster of channels that have made similar moves, including HBO, Showtime, Nickelodeon and CBS (and many more coming). But that doesn’t really make sense.

They’re all similar in one key regard: They free up programming previously restricted to pay-TV subscribers. But what exactly they make available is where the one-size-fits-all definition of OTT starts to fall apart.

HBO Now, for example, is a truly disruptive offering, unshackling all of the content that once required paying a monthly fee on top of the basic-cable package cost. Its very existence calls into question the entire value of pay TV, which will undoubtedly lose some customers who won’t see the point to ponying up for the entire enchilada anymore.

But Lifetime Movie Club is an entirely different species than HBO Now or Showtime’s upcoming counterpart.

For starters, these titles will be one year removed from their linear runs, as opposed to the simultaneous scheduling of original programming on HBO and HBO Now. It’s not all that different than what Nickelodeon is doing with its own SVOD offshoot Noggin, which takes children’s content that has already played on linear TV.

There may be a whole new audience of cord-cutters who have never encountered Lifetime movies before in the 25-year history of this library, but will there be enough to fork over $4 a month for aging movies with minimal brand recognition? Doubtful.

Even if Lifetime had the greatest collection of movies in the world, there’s the sheer numbers to consider: $4 to access a rotating group of just 30 movies. Not a thrilling proposition when you consider the price of Netflix is double that amount — but for an exponentially bigger library.

It’s an interesting time to consider the value of this new offering just weeks after the cable channel premiered “A Deadly Adoption,” a movie featuring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig that satirized the very style of film with which Lifetime will populate its SVOD service. To be fair, Lifetime has done higher-end movies as well, but even the most generous assessment of even the best of its library has to consider these titles aren’t atop the hierarchy of cable content.

Let’s face it: Nobody who purchases a subscription to Lifetime Movie Club is going to think twice about the value of their pay-TV subscription. So what’s really going on here?

Like every TV programmer, Lifetime has to stick an oar into the OTT waters as the media landscape shifts underneath them. They must do something just short of cannibalistic to begin to move toward a future in which there’s a direct-to-consumer relationship that yields the kind of user data that give a sense of what consumers really want.

Lifetime Movie Club may not exist in a year or two, but it represents a beachhead from where the company can eventually pivot into something that may be a more compelling consumer proposition. There’s also an opportunity to squeeze some incremental value out of a library more likely to collect dust than revenue.

That’s quite a different game plan than what HBO is doing. But lumping all these OTT ventures is useful in one regard.

Because while HBO Now and Noggin may be totally different services, they can be put side by side with so many of their counterparts for the purpose of asking an important question. How many of these ventures can co-exist before cost-conscious consumers who flocked to OTT to avoid expensive traditional packages recoil upon discovering they’re paying a comparable amount when all these cheaper alternatives are cobbled together as a replacement?

That’s an even bigger dilemma for Lifetime et al. Because as every cable brands breaks from the bundle to go their own way, they will eventually find themselves in a zero-sum game to get consumers who are only going to spend so many dollars on so many SVOD offerings. And when that happens, consumer “Adoption” in this space could be “Deadly” indeed because not every brand will survive.

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  1. Ree Tolls says:

    I just signed up with PlayStation Vue… It has all the stations I watch on DISH TV but at a cost that makes the DISH outrageous! PS Vue cost me $34 a month (mid tier plan) while the DISH costs me $120 a month. True, I get a lot more stations on DISH, but I ONLY WATCH 11 OF THOSE STATIONS. Those stations are on PS Vue. Get an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Box and cut the cost grabbing Cable Cord.

  2. MichaelA says:

    I do not care about this, i’m earning around 4500$ a month. There is tricky way i found on the internet. If you want to learn it too, just type in google: Willis Mounts Strategy

  3. Nat Ramnan says:

    The ultimate insult is CNN GO….I cut the cord, got myself a Sling TV sub, added the news pack( I am a news junkie), have all CNN, HLN , the other Turner channels, also bought an HBO sub on my Sling TV, yet cannot access CNN GO—and CNN pretends to be at the forefront of new media! Whats worse I ve emailed them, facebook messaged them, tweeted them, and don’t even get a boiler plate response, forget about a proper response….all these companies talk endlessly about new media, social media etc….but in the end they are the same arrogant dinosaurs they always were! And even though I pay for a CNN sub, they still have plenty of ads alright!

  4. nerdrage says:

    Most of the new OTT services jostling for position are doomed. Even big boys like Hulu and Showtime. I figure Netflix and Amazon are good; HBO a maybe; Apple could make a mark if they choose to compete as a service and not just hardware; and beyond that, specialty services could also survive if they have a strong enough niche appeal. I’ve heard about a Horror service and a Christian service. Now we just need a Sci Fi service and a Sports service.

    There’s no law that says you need to subscribe to all of this. For me, I’d do Netflix + Sci Fi. Others would choose different options.

    • stevehc1 says:

      “Most of the new OTT services jostling for position are doomed. Even big boys like Hulu and Showtime.”

      – I would not place any bets on that if I were you…

  5. Nik says:

    Who asked you to go and subscribe all SVOD subscriptions en-masse? Do it one by one. Once you’re done with one and feel like going for another, cancel the one you’re currently on and go for that other one. That is the most cost efficient way for going the SVOD route.

    Plus you won’t be letting your subscription be idle while you finish watching all the shows and movies that one subscription has on offer.

    • nerdrage says:

      When things really get rolling with these new services, we’ll see a lot of this jumping-in-and-out of services. Any one of them has more than enough to watch. Netflix alone gives me enough to fill my time, but then I see HBO is launching Westworld and Showtime is reviving Twin Peaks and I get interested in those too. I don’t need all three or even two of the three at once. So I jump around.

      But this is silly since it’s exactly the sort of thing that computers should be doing, and we should not be using our human brains to plan our jumping-around schedule. Which is why I think the next step beyond this is services that do this for us. We don’t subscribe to Netflix or HBO, we subscribe to Google or Roku (hardware vendors who already have relationships with the OTT channels) and provide all the options for us to select from. I can choose Orange is the New Black from Netflix, Westworld from HBO, Twin Peaks from Showtime, and decide I want them all in the same month and then Roku calculates the costs. If that’s too much, I say okay hmm maybe I’ll do a catch up on the old Twin Peaks (from Netflix), which it lots cheaper and put Showtime off to next month.

      I envision something with sliders to handle the interrelationship between quality of content; frequency of delivery; and how new the content is, all of which are calculated to determine price. We fiddle with the sliders and pay the bill, the computer handles all the rest. And we FINALLY get what we really want: The Me Channel, without all that other crap.

  6. Emor says:

    This is exactly what people don’t understand about a-la-carte. It will cost you more money for less channels than you get now. But I’m not defending the cable companies. All those fees for ‘local’ channels, ‘HD’ channels, etc… are complete crap. what is really needed is a flat-fee bill and the ability to buy you own equipment, like internet service. We should NOT be forced to buy ONLY from the content provider, i.e. Cable Companies. That is the real travesty!!

  7. Bill B. says:

    Is this a joke?! People would actually pay to see Lifetime as a stand alone?! I’m flabbergasted!

    • Anita says:

      My thoughts exactly. Totally ridiculous! Used to have lifetime as a channel on my Roku. Swiftly deleted it when I learned they actually wanted to charge money to watch their lame movies.

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