Streamers face shrinking catalogs

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The Future. With USA’s Suits topping Netflix’s charts, it looks like the Peak TV streaming model of the past decade (small episode orders, few seasons, big stars, and high production values) may not be the most successful strategy to turn a profit and keep viewers engaged. The opposite is a return to 100-episode shows, which requires an overhaul of how the TV business works now. While that may be a lifeline to Hollywood, it may require rebooting audience expectations.

Yesteryear’s hits
Streamers may soon run out of the broadcast and cable shows that made their libraries valuable while subscribers waited for new originals.

  • Streamers relied on a steady supply of shows from those outlets to reduce churn — think Grey’s Anatomy, Criminal Minds, and The CW’s multi-show Arrowverse.
  • But ironically, cord-cutting has gutted the traditional model, forcing many cable outlets to ditch scripted entertainment and putting the top four broadcasters on life support.
  • That means the streamers will have to make them — something their business model is not built for — because they’ll eventually run out of older shows for young viewers to discover.
  • If they don’t, they run the risk of viewers having a buffet of shows to start watching (which attracts new subscribers) but nothing they can really sink their teeth into (which keeps those subscribers).

So, is there a fix? Vulture points to the old way of making TV — more seasons so viewers can commit to characters, the ability to amortize production costs over more episodes, and a return to licensing to keep making money over time. That also means streamers have to rebuke the cost-plus model that treats every show as a modest hit before it airs (meaning actual streaming residuals for creatives).

Is looking back really the way forward? Warner Bros. Discovery, Netflix, and Hulu may already think so.


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