Their technology was first to market and laid the foundations for all streaming services to come. So how do Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max compare to the other video streaming services now that they've reached digital maturity? This week we're taking a look at the legacy streamers, the old guard, the ones who claimed the top spots in the streaming-on-demand market long before legacy media thought it was feasible.
Streaming on demand is now somewhat standardized, thanks primarily to Netflix and Hulu in the late aughts. These disruptors created the first user interfaces, honed their recommender systems, and experimented with personalization. Their users were attracted by the low-cost and free services, along with minimal commercials and on-demand HBO's Now service joined the fray in 2015, proving that high-budget TV could generate subscribers on brand name alone.
Roughly a third of American households regularly stream video, up 66% from pre-pandemic numbers. For someone who spends all day on the internet and all night bingeing streaming content, this may feel low, but it's actually a massive percentage of market share that any broadcast or cable channel would be happy to have on their programming.**
In late 2021, post-pandemic and after some dust settled following new services in the market, Netflix's streaming market share is around 20%, Hulu's is at 13% and HBO Max 12%, making them three out of the top four readily available streaming services in the U.S.*** So have their interfaces kept up with consumer savvy?
**People who live on the internet often need a hard reminder that the majority of people, in the U.S. and globally, do not live on the internet.
***Amazon Prime holds around 16% market share, but longtime readers will know that I really hate Amazon on principle, so not shining any love their way, even if they did produce I Love Dick, one of my favorite limited TV series of all time.
HBOMax: Scrolling, scrolling, forever scrolling
Technically, HBO Max is a new app, wholly different from HBOGo and HBONow, the previous iterations that I used when I could borrow someone's login or occasionally had the extra cash to subscribe. It comprises many Time Warner brands, including Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and CrunchyRoll, and features a deep catalog of shows and movies.
Using the app remains similar to the experience of HBO on cable, a subscription I've been conditioned since the womb to consider an erudite treat for fancy people. Logging in reveals a deluge of premium tv shows, some decent movies-just-in-and-out-of-theaters, and promotional content for all of the above. So much promotional content, in fact, that one can forget it's a service that features no outside advertising. I have no idea what the ad-filled subscription is like, but I expect it would be even more cluttered with promotional items.
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