The state of streaming: Spring 2023, and beyond

By Sammy Bovitz

The entertainment world just won’t stop. I’ve analyzed the major American direct-to-consumer streaming services each spring on the Beat since 2021, and the time has come to do it for the third and final time before I graduate. 

Let me be honest: this annual ritual is getting quite repetitive. There are 5 major American services at this point: Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+. Everything else (Hulu, Paramount+, Discovery+, Peacock, etc.) has either comfortably carved out their own niche or are struggling to keep up, depending on how you look at it. But all of these corporations, relative to us human beings, are doing pretty well for themselves. So… where do we go from here? 

The entertainment business is defined by consolidation. In the last decade, Disney has bought Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox, Viacom and CBS have merged to form Paramount Global, and the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery has seen drama more compelling than some of the HBO shows they produce together.

So that must mean that our direct-to-streaming overlords must beat or join each other at some point, right? I mean, it’s already starting to happen. Quibi and CNN+ are dead, ESPN’s spot in the Disney empire is beginning to slip, and even Netflix has lost subscribers.

So instead of looking at the present, let’s take my crystal ball of understanding and make a series of predictions for the future. Which streaming services will live, which will die, and which will tell their stories? Let’s make some educated guesses and find out. 

Disney kills Hulu 

We’re starting off bold this spring! Obviously, Hulu is one of the few that survived the streaming revolution of 2019, but its case for survival is just not as airtight as Netflix. Hulu was initially known for its massive library of quality television shows and affordable price point, and the fact it was one of only a few services in town didn’t hurt. 

But all of that has changed now. Hulu’s major partners included NBC, CBS, Showtime, HBO, Discovery, and the Food Network, but all of them are now leaving for greener pastures (read: company-owned streaming services). That pretty much leaves Hulu with ABC, FX, Disney Channel, and its own originals, along with the table scraps from their old deals.

As for originals? The Handmaid’s Tale, arguably the service’s flagship series, is about to end. You can count the rest of the notable exclusives on one hand: Only Murders In The Building, The Bear, Reservation Dogs, and The Kardashians have been the only series with mainstream staying power. There’s not too much to subscribe for, and not much else appears to be in development for the service.

Disney is trying to make itself a one-stop shop for all entertainment needs, and there’s no easier way for them to do this than to fold Hulu right into Disney+. With the recent addition of an 18+ filter as well as selection of 20th Century Fox and ESPN content, the logical next step is to inject the most popular family-friendly streamer with a whole lot more for the adults.

Apple TV+ will stagnate but stick around

It’s no secret that Apple’s direct-to-consumer offering is bankrolled and justified by the ubiquity of their devices. However, they’ve made a case for themselves through the popularity of several flagship originals. Ted Lasso, For All Mankind, Severance, Mythic Quest, and The Morning Show already rival or best lineups like Hulu’s, and it’s only been a few years. Not only that, their investments in the film space have made waves. CODA won Best Picture in 2022– Apple won that award before Netfiix did– and they are already the streaming home of prestigious headliners like Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. Their 2023 headliner stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro: Killers of the Flower Moon, a film by director Martin Scorsese. 

However, I don’t know how many surprises Apple has left in them. They have an Emmy-dominating comedy, one of the biggest dramas of 2022, and a damn Best Picture winner. Where can they go from here? Apple doesn’t quite have the volume of content that Netflix unleashes onto the world on a yearly basis, or the pedigree of something like HBO, as Apple is a tech company first. 

Apple TV+ will continue to be a really nice incentive to buy the Apple TV hardware for streaming, and not much else. Especially as an exclusive to said platform, I don’t think it’s going to quite compete with the top dogs– but it’s also not going anywhere. Apple might keep surprising with its content, but the resulting growth will be steady at best– and merely prevent cancellations at worst.

Paramount Global will be spun off or bought out by 2030

Consolidations sure are fun! Maybe I’ve been watching too much Succession, but I’ve recently become obsessed with the waves of entertainment mergers & acquisitions. It seems that we have reached a point in the streaming wars where a large domino is going to fall– and my money is on the mid-major conglomerate with the SpongeBob episodes on it.

I’m aware that this is a bit of a bold prediction. Paramount+ is carving out a solid niche, and you can’t just toss around brands like CBS, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central like they’re nothing. 


There have been whispers of a buyout ever since Viacom and CBS merged to become Paramount Global. The company’s declining market cap, its recent manuevers toward a potential sale of BET and VH1, and the state of its properties make it the most attractive purchase partner for a big fish looking for some more content. Most of its lucrative properties, aside from its sports coverage, are not gaining customers as much as they are merely maintaining them– SpongeBob, The Daily Show, and Star Trek are perfect examples. Again, based only on my Succession obsession, I think the landscape is right for a changing of the guard for their content properties. My money’s on either a massive downsizing of Paramount, with the company pivoting entirely to the sports and blockbusters that drive their business, or a full-on sale.

Netflix will be dethroned

Disney+ and HBO Max will usurp Netflix as the heavyweights in the streaming industry.

To me, this is kind of obvious. Warner Bros. Discovery and the Walt Disney Company, for all their faults, are just absolutely loaded with content. Disney has Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar; Warner Bros. has HBO, DC, and Friends. If you thought Hulu was losing all its properties, just look at Netflix. Their biggest suppliers of third-party content were Disney, Warner Bros., NBCUniversal, and Sony. All except Sony have their own services now, and Disney just signed a deal for the rights to their future films. All they have left now are their originals. 

To their credit, Netflix has plenty of originals, and those licensing deals are’t done yet. But they’re losing flagship shows, and fast. Stranger Things, Never Have I Ever and The Crown are ending soon. Will Bridgerton, Wednesday, and their continually burgeoning comedy scene be enough? For many, it will. But when the next superhero sensation or HBO classic is coming down the pipeline, some consumers will inevitably swing the other way.

Netflix is losing subscribers, stagnating in relevance, and has just lost half the reason to sign up for Netflix in the first place. The service used to be a one-stop shop for all entertainment needs. Now its well of content is beginning to dry. 

Third place in the streaming wars is nothing to sneeze at, but I believe that Netflix’s reign at the top will end. 

In conclusion…

Streaming services feel like the final frontier of the entertainment business. A reliable monthly payment from millions drives billions of dollars to new content, and the cycle repeats. 

But not every streamer prints money.  Markets change, businesses change, and people change. So who knows what the state of streaming will be in five years’ time?

If anything, take this trio of reports as a time capsule, a reminder of a simpler time. The streaming landscape will look quite different from the one we see now. So for now, let’s sit back, relax, and admire the view.