Cutting the cord is easier than ever, with a multitude of streaming services ready to deliver thousands of hours of content over your internet connection.
According to Nielsen's new State of Play report, people are streaming more than ever — but 64 percent of viewers say they wish for a bundling service that allows them to pick and choose services. Wasn't there something where you could buy a package with the channels you wanted? Oh, right ... that's cable.
Not only does the majority seem to want a cable-like bundle for services, many also crave a streamlined experience to find content. The report lists the staggering amount of content that's available online: 817,000 unique program titles across U.S. traditional TV and streaming services. The last few years have added a raft of major services, with Disney Plus, HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount Plus, AMC Plus and Discovery Plus joining veterans Netflix and Hulu.
With movies and shows scattered across so many platforms (and news that HBO Max and Discovery Plus will be combined), it's no wonder nearly half the survey respondents say it’s difficult to find the content they want to watch. As the report notes, an "abundance of choice has survey respondents feeling overwhelmed by too many options."
Analysis: Bundling is the future of streaming
Nielsen's study makes it clear: Streaming isn't just here to stay, it's how most people will consume most of their content in the future.
Despite the gripes outlined above, viewers are still glued to their screens. Nielsen says the average adult spends four hours and 49 minutes watching TV each day, with more than half of that taken up by live TV. Watching live sports and news isn't going away anytime soon, which is why the best cable TV alternatives are becoming increasingly popular among cord-cutters.
And while they may be overwhelmed by all the options, 93 percent of respondents said they plan to either add more streaming services or make no change.
Right now, over half of viewers subscribe to at least four services and pay $20 or more per month. A whopping 15 percent pay $50 or more (it me — I have a big streaming bill).
As people stream more video and add new services to their tab, the demand for bundling will skyrocket. Currently, a few companies bundle their owned services, such as the so-called Disney Bundle (which combines Disney, Hulu and ESPN Plus) package and the Paramount Plus/Showtime duo.
Traditional cable and phone companies are getting into the mix. Verizon’s Plus Play offers a single hub to manage their subscriptions to Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, AMC Plus, Discovery Plus and others. Comcast's Xfinity has a partnership with Apple TV.
But those offerings are just a way to streamline subscription management, not content discovery. Plex just upped the ante on streaming apps by adding new discovery and watchlist features that span streaming services. When TG's Henry T. Casey tested it, the trending row pull in Apple TV Plus' new Slow Horses series, Netflix's Apollo 10 1/2 movie, Disney Plus' Better Nate Than Never and HBO Max's Julia miniseries.
The most ideal form of bundling would be to combine subscription management and discovery across multiple services. Strike that — it would be even more ideal if the bundle was discounted. Which we're hoping will happen with the merger of HBO Max and Discovery Plus.
Alas, that may be a bridge too far. It's hard to imagine market leaders Netflix or Disney agreeing to such a scheme, so the savings would have to come from the bundler. That's a MoviePass-like debacle waiting to happen. But bundling is clearly something that people want. Eventually, someone somewhere will figure out how to make it work.
In other entertainment news, a new must-watch Netflix movie has 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and Disney Plus needs R-rated content to take on Netflix. Plus, check out the 3 Netflix shows you need to binge in April.
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Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.