Recently, I got into a discussion with a young guy who claimed that streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are dying because video piracy is coming back, big time.
I disagreed, pointing out that the real challenge to those companies is not from piracy but from new competing services like Disney+ and Apple TV. That field has gotten very crowded recently, with consumers having so many options (CBS All Access, HBO Now, ESPN+, DirecTVnow, SlingTV, YouTubeTV, and even more) that you can end up paying more for those services than if you hadn’t cut the cable cord in the first place. In such a competitive atmosphere, there will certainly be some weeding out, but the bigger companies — the ones who offer the most original (and library) content that consumers want to watch — will continue to add subscribers, not just in the US but globally.
He wouldn’t hear it, insisting they are all in trouble because there’s a huge number of people starting to pirate TV shows and movies again. I rebutted that if those numbers have increased at all, it’s purely on a generational basis. He’s a millennial, so of course he’s quick to adopt new tech, but baby boomers and GenXers would be much slower and more wary of committing the crime — yes, it’s illegal — of stealing content (they’ll share Netflix passwords, but they justify it because at least someone is paying for it).
He argued back that his father is in his fifties (ahem, younger than I am!) and he’s doing it. I asked how dad knows what to do, and the guy — who has a graduate degree from MIT — explained that he’d installed a server in his father’s house and set it up for him. Sorry, I replied, the ratio of Americans who will go that route compared to the ones who won’t (because they don’t have a tech-savvy kid to set it up for them) is smaller than the number of factual statements vs. lies Donald Trump tells in a year.
Bottom line: I’m not selling my Netflix stock anytime soon. I’d bet that instead of those shares, the young poker pro had invested in Bitcoin or other cyber currency, convinced the whole world was about to switch to that financial fantasy because “everyone was talking about it on Reddit.”