Numbers tell the story, even if they’re not precise. “About 130”—that’s how many fewer shows Netflix reportedly released last year versus 2022. “Several hundred”—the estimate of how many people Amazon is said to be laying off in the company’s Prime Video and MGM Studios divisions. The number of scripted shows that streaming services plan to release this year is estimated to be around 400, down from a peak of 599 in 2022.
The much-lauded streaming wars are scuffles now—and the winners are few.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg Businessweek noted that the coming year is looking to be a “very boring” one for viewers. Streaming, reporter Lucas Shaw explained, was supposed to be the answer to dwindling cable subscriptions and a movie business still struggling to return to prepandemic levels, but the industry is still shedding cash. “Even though unions secured huge victories [in the Hollywood strikes], writers and actors have returned to an industry that should have fewer jobs.” The day after Shaw’s report went out, Amazon’s massive Prime Video cuts hit the news.
Signs of the strife emerged in 2022, when Netflix started losing subscribers. This time last year, Reed Hastings, who turned the company into a juggernaut, stepped back from his role as CEO. Password-sharing crackdowns and new ad-supported tiers helped Netflix right the ship, but it still faces stiff competition from newer services like Max, Apple TV+, Disney+, and Prime Video—even as those services now struggle with their own growing pains.
This was always going to happen. Once Netflix disrupted how people watch movies and TV shows, everything was in motion. Major Hollywood studios, many of which had made bank by licensing their content to streamers, decided they needed to offer services of their own. Cord-cutting became the name of the game, and people started axing cable left and right. As new services emerged—and merged (hello, Warner Bros. Discovery!)—the race for dominance to become one of the new Big Three was on.
Not to say that race will end in 2024, but it could slow to a steady mall walk. Following Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, during which streaming Tiger King felt like a lifeline to the outside world, people have been taking a long, hard look at their streaming budgets. When subscriptions to a half-dozen services can cost about as much as basic cable, some are going to get cut from household expenses.
Following the dual Hollywood strikes, that’ll be tough. Netflix claims the strikes didn’t have a huge impact on its slate, but it did release about 25 percent fewer series in the second half of last year, according to What’s on Netflix, and the whole thing with the strikes is that there will be ripple effects. Apple TV+, for example, looks to be hit the hardest, according to industry observers at Parrott Analytics, because out of all the services, it relies most on original content rather than licensing old (and already popular) shows.