By Jared Newman | Monday, December 6, 2010 at 4:59 pm
Now that Netflix has done the messy work of building a subscription streaming video service and proving its success, here come the imitators.
The Wall Street Journal reports that several tech companies are now trying to build their own online video subscriptions, including Vizio, Amazon and OnLive. Also, Microsoft and Sony are reportedly being wooed by media companies who want to license content directly, and Microsoft may be putting together a subscription package that’s like cable over the Internet.
This is all rumor, given that most of the companies would not comment to the Journal, but the idea of more steaming services from would-be Netflix competitors at least seems plausible.
Unfortunately for these companies, streaming ain’t easy. Netflix’s Instant Watch feature has been around since 2007, and the company has spent lots of money to secure more content. For example, Netflix will pay $1 billion to stream movies and shows from Epix over the next five years, and a recent rumor suggested Netflix could also spend up to $100,000 on next-day streaming of current TV shows. When Netflix made deals with movie studios to delay new DVD releases by 28 days, the company also secured more streaming content as a condition of those deals.
Meanwhile, Netflix has pushed onto game consoles, set-top boxes and Apple’s iOS devices. Its multi-platform strategy is two years in the making.
I’m not saying other companies shouldn’t bother to compete with Netflix, but doing so will take a lot of money and manpower. OnLive may get some help from Warner Bros., a major investor, but the company’s money is best spent on licensing more games. A Vizio streaming service seems hopeless if it’s only tied to Vizio televisions.
As for the other contenders, it’s hard to imagine them catching up to Netflix without innovating, or otherwise doing something Netflix isn’t. Copycat plans won’t cut it.