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The date chiseled on the headstone will be May 23, 2023. That’s the day HBO Max—a streaming service with a name that would be inscrutable if it didn’t have “HBO” in it—became just Max. The day that, as the Max news was trending online and the Max app was glitching, Netflix quietly attempted to begin limiting who could share passwords. It was the day streaming died.
Perhaps this statement is wildly hyperbolic. But amidst what seems like a panicked time in the streaming industry, it doesn’t feel entirely wrong, either. Over the past three years, services like Netflix, Disney+, and a dozen other offerings with goofy titles have lost captive Covid-19-locked-down audiences only to find subscriber churn brought on by a surfeit of options.
To stanch the loss of revenue, many—Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max—launched ad-supported tiers. That saved a few folks some money and brought in cash for corporations, but it also came at a time when streamers’ ever-changing lineups of shows and movies left many viewers confused about what bang they were getting for their buck. For a long time, it felt like a reckoning was coming. This week, it arrived.
Sarah Henschel, a principal analyst at Omdia who watches the streaming market closely, agrees this is an inflection point. “We’re seeing a lot of these services face maturity, whereas over the past 10 years it’s kind of been the Wild West,” she says. “They’re all starting to face the reality that they have to make money now and can&rsq...