Free streaming is a lot like free beer: It’s good, it’s cheap, and it’s awesome.
But, as much as it’s exciting, the free streaming phenomenon has a long way to go before it reaches the level of mainstream appeal it once did.
The problem is, there are a few problems with the free-to-play model.
First, unlike traditional, traditional media, it doesn’t have a single market to appeal to.
“We have to do better than that,” says Sam Gassman, the chief marketing officer of the video game giant Ubisoft, which is one of the biggest players in the industry.
“The only way to do that is to create a market that is unique to it.”
“You’re creating an opportunity for an audience to see a different product and a different brand, to be able to see what it’s all about,” says Matt O’Brien, VP of business development for the entertainment company Warner Bros. So, while there’s a lot of hype surrounding the potential of a digital streaming model, that’s only the beginning of what’s required to make it a viable option for people who want to pay a monthly fee to see movies or TV shows that they don’t normally pay for.
“It’s a different kind of experience, a different way to consume content, and we need to be ready to support that,” O’Brian says.
“We need to take this as a leap and push it further, to make sure we’re providing the best experiences for our customers.”
That’s why Gassmann, O’Briens and other executives at Warner Bros., Sony, Netflix, Hulu and other big-name streaming services have been calling on their content partners to invest in a streaming strategy.
“It’s about delivering the best experience for our fans, and then, of course, for the brands and advertisers,” says Gassmen.
While the free stream models have been around for a while, they’re only beginning to gain traction.
In the U.S., streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu launched in 2012, while Google has been rolling out a subscription service, YouTube, since late 2015.
“I think people are really looking for more of an immersive experience,” says O’Sullivan.
“There’s a desire for more variety.
You’re seeing it in the way that you’re using your TV.
You can have more than one thing on your TV at a time.”
While it’s true that streaming is becoming more mainstream, streaming isn’t the only way consumers are watching.
Some people watch TV for their favorite shows or movies, but others use streaming to get more of their news or entertainment from sources that they may not otherwise have access to.
“For people who don’t want to own their own set, there’s always the option of streaming,” says Ryan Smith, CEO of Hulu.
“And for people that want to be a part of the ecosystem, there will always be a free service that they can use to get their content.”
If you’re like most of the consumers we spoke to, your only option to watch TV is via streaming.
But for the many people who might have to subscribe to one of these streaming services to get a free one, there may be some new possibilities for how you watch.
“There are a lot more options out there,” says David Borenstein, the head of research at Ovum.
“What you’ll see is that people will start to be more aware of where their TV is on the schedule, when it’s on, what’s on the schedules.
You’ll start to see more of that.”
While it may not be a household name yet, Hulu has been a huge success story in recent years, and its service has been downloaded over two billion times.
Its subscriber base has grown to nearly 3 billion, and the company has plans to add even more new services in the future.
If your TV doesn’t support streaming, there could be a new option for you.
There’s an app on your phone, tablet, or computer that can stream TV shows or games, and, if you subscribe to a streaming service, you can then subscribe to that service and watch all of their content without having to pay for it.
“You’ve got an app that’s able to stream TV without having a cable bill,” says Boren.
“I think it’s a way to start the conversation.”
For those who don-t have the time to install an app, streaming can be as simple as going to your favorite streaming service and choosing “Free,” then clicking “Add.”
“If it’s not on your schedule, you’ll still be able watch TV,” says Smith.
“If you don’t like that, you’ve got to pay.”