It’s official: There are too many streaming services on the market

Here’s a thought experiment for you streaming fans out there. At this point, many of us are subscribed to multiple streaming TV services — Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, and maybe even a few others beyond that. But maybe at some point, perhaps even right now, you’ll arrive at a moment of frustration. Deciding that you’re subscribed to too many, and it’s time to cull the herd. To pull the plug on one of the streamers that you use the least or that you’re unhappy with. Which one gets the ax? Which streamer has gone the longest since seeing you open the app and actually watch something?

It’s a question that consumers are increasingly asking themselves right now, as subscriber churn starts to ramp up and send a chill throughout the ranks of most streamers, even Netflix to a certain extent. The 15th annual Deloitte media trends report, which surveyed 2,009 US consumers in February, zeroed in on this trend, noting that the average streaming video subscriber at the moment is paying for four video streaming services (down from five back in the fall). Moreover, according to Fortune’s summary of the report’s findings, 82% of consumers are paying for video streaming in some form or another right now, but the Deloitte data shows that people are at the same time starting to be much pickier along these lines about what they sign up and pay for.

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Kevin Westcott, Deloitte’s vice chairman and US tech, media, and telecom leader, told Fortune that cancellation rates are up, overall, among the major streamers in the aggregate. Reading that, I can’t help but wonder if it suggests that what I’ll call the Netflix hypothesis still holds true, or if streamers that are prizing curation and quality (instead of quantity) will be okay and maybe even better off in the end.

By the Netflix hypothesis, I’m talking about the sense that I and many other people have — that Netflix is basically the sun around which the rest of the streaming universe orbits. Which is to say, it seems as though Netflix has best positioned itself to be most consumers’ core subscription, and everything else is just a +1. An add-on, maybe to enjoy a few things that Netflix doesn’t have. Netflix has won on pure quantity, and it’s really just a matter of making sure that within that seemingly infinite quantity there’s plenty of content you find that you like, enough to justify keeping your subscription from one month to the next.

But there’s also plenty of great content not available on Netflix, too. Things like The Mosquito Coast, which stars Justin Theroux and is debuting on Apple TV+ starting this weekend. It’s pretty fantastic for a first season, and I reviewed it below in addition to talking to a few of the cast members.

Apple TV+, in fact, had my favorite TV show for all of 2020 (the Israeli spy thriller, Tehran). For some of you, it was Ted Lasso, instead, on Apple TV+. Nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if this whole thing is increasingly going to turn into a zero-sum game. Sort of like, I don’t know, the search engine war that Google won, hands down, to such a degree that the also-rans barely merit anyone’s attention anymore. Then again, Netflix just a few days ago reported a huge miss in the number of subscribers it added during the first quarter (3.98 million, versus more than 6 million that had been expected). The coronavirus pandemic seemed to blame, causing Netflix to delay production on some hit shows and movies. Be that as it may, though, maybe it’s a sign that it’s still anybody’s game at this point.

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