Why Too Many Streaming Services Will Make Us Go Back to Cable

Back to the basics

Key Takeaways

  • The number of streaming service options might make us turn back to the days of having cable. 
  • The downsides of streaming services are too many platform and content options and fewer chances of discovering something new. 
  • The future of our watching habits could be a return to cable or a priority of more niche-based platforms over your average streaming service.
An old analog television set in a dimly lit room with static on the screen of the tv.

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With so many streaming service options to choose from these days, experts say we might end up being too overwhelmed and turning back to cable. 

There are more than 200 streaming services available today, and many have prioritized these platforms over cable. But too many options and too much content could make us feel too weighed down to keep up with streaming services. 

"I think people are really starting to get burned out," Daniel Hess, a filmmaker at To Tony Productions, told Lifewire over the phone. "When [streaming services] have so much content, I think they become an overwhelming sort of beast."

Overwhelming Options

The average person who uses streaming services subscribes to between five and seven services. You know the ones: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, Apple TV+, Discovery+, Paramount+, Peacock, HBO Max, and others.

According to a recent survey conducted by Verizon Media and Publicis Media, 56% of people say they are overwhelmed by the number of streaming services to choose from. The survey also shows that 67% of users say it is hard to decide what to watch because there is too much content. 

"It's hard to remember where anything is—was that show on Netflix or Hulu, or maybe it was Disney+?"

Especially since many of your favorite shows live on one single platform (The Office on Peacock, The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, or Ted Lasso on Apple TV+), experts say it can be hard to remember where to tune in. 

"It's hard to remember where anything is—was that show on Netflix or Hulu, or maybe it was Disney+?" Bryan Striegler, a photographer at Striegler Photography, told Lifewire in an email. 

"[With cable], you have one place to look, you'll have your favorite channels, and there might be 100 things to watch versus 50,000."

Hess added that streaming services were created as an alternative to cable to provide unique options at a lower price. But unlike cable, streaming services are algorithm-based, which means you don’t get the experience of stumbling onto a new show or channel while scrolling through cable and finding something new you wouldn’t have watched otherwise. 

"The issue with algorithms is it doesn't challenge the viewers to try something new," Hess said. "It just caters to what you're indulging in right now, and that can be a big issue."

The Future of Watching

Netflix and Disney+ reported lower-than-expected subscriber numbers in the first quarter of this year, so it's clear more people are jumping ship. Hess said it’s safe to assume that all these streaming services will plateau in their subscriber numbers, and the next option could be combining them all. 

"At some point, there has to be something that's either going to bring it all together under one umbrella or [the streaming services] are just going to start folding," Hess said. 

Closeup of a hand holding a remote control with a streaming service on the TV in the background.

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Hess said he got rid of his streaming services in 2018 and said he instead looks for content catered to his specific interests, which also could be an alternative of where we are heading. 

"I think there's going to be a lot of people seeking out individualized content," Hess said. "It could be a platform of people putting out content, and viewers really getting into that atmosphere of it. And then just kind of supporting those content creators."

But for those just looking to sit down and watch something, Strieglar says that cable might be a better option in the near future. If the average person has between five and seven streaming services, that adds up to around $50-$70 a month, give or take. 

By comparison, the average cable bill costs about $60 a month for a starter cable package, though Strieglar said that could change. "The cost [of cable] should drop with all the people jumping on the streaming train and be similar to subscribing to four or more streaming services," Strieglar said. 

Whether you’re a die-hard cable fan or a serial streaming service subscriber, it’s safe to say we have plenty of options in how and what we watch. As with everything, the way we consume our media will continue to change in the future. 

"Right now, I'm still happy with my streaming services, but things might be different in another three years," Striegler said. 

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