As the market for streaming services grows Netflix has found its dominant position under attack and with 20th Century Fox backing the streaming channel Hulu, Netflix continues to haemorrhage shows.
Last October Netflix suffered a hammer-blow when Fox signed an exclusive deal with Hulu to stream its own shows.
Hulu is a consortium of companies that include major players such as Disney, ABC, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner, which means it has access to some of the best content available, even before other streaming services get them.
Perennial favourites such as The Wonder Years, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files and American Dad have all left Netflix to appear on Hulu.
With more and more networks and media companies looking to gain a foothold in an ever increasingly crowded market there is a real threat that Netflix’s position could diminish.
While consumers may rub their hands at the prospect of more streaming channels the downside will certainly see them paying more and more for those services.
Experts believe that this will lead to consumers having to cherry-pick channels, which will only add to greater uncertainty in the industry.
Who the Hulu are you?
Based in Santa Monica, California Hulu went live in August 2007. Hulu claims to have 47million viewers last year but does not disclose actual subscriber numbers.
Last year it spent around $2.5billion on movies and shows.
Often buying up shows carried by competing rivals. But Hulu, who has said it is committed to original content, gained credo after winning an Emmy for best drama with the Handmaid’s Tale.
At present Hulu is not available in the UK but you can access it by signing-up to its US membership.
Once a member you can then view Hulu in the UK by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
More: What are the best VPNs for Hulu? (VPNs.co.uk)
Netflix falls out of favour
Following Fox’s withdrawal, NetFlix suffered another blow when Disney recently announced that it would pull all its movies from Netflix by 2019. Ominously, Disney said they would reserve them for an, as yet, unnamed company-owned streaming service.
Netflix itself has acknowledged the deteriorating situation and has responded by concentrating its $6 billion budget on original content, which numbered an impressive 200 last year.
Media observers sat-up and took notice after Netflix failed to secure the reruns of NBC’s big hit show This is Us. An auction was held and Netflix bid millions. So did Amazon. Yet the rights went to Hulu who bid £3.5 million per episode, which was ranked among the most expensive licensing deals ever.
But Netflix has not been completely abandoned. Recently Fox did sell Netflix the rights to the series American Crime Story, while CBS, the only broadcast network owner not involved in Hulu, sold Netflix the international rights to their flagship new Star Trek series.
Hulu still has some way to go to close the gap between itself and Netflix, but the gap is closing.
And backed by Hollywood’s media giants the service has the clout. But streaming services are facing some uncomfortable truths.
The predicted exodus from cable and live TV has just not happened. In the US the number of households with pay TV is stuck at the 100 million mark with little movement either way.
It seems we have not fully thrown-off our love of live TV for news and sports and we are becoming more and more disgruntled when it comes to paying subscriptions for cable with hundreds of channels we are unlikely to watch.
The streaming service companies have also felt the hot breath of competition from the burgeoning internet TV.
What is known as Over-the-top (OTT) internet TV has seen Hulu and Amazon attempt to enter what is a crowded market, alongside giants such as Google as they attempt to compete with established players like AT&T.
As with any competitive market there will be winners and losers.
As for the consumer they may well be an ever more greater choice, but it means that we will be forced to cherry-pick our viewing services, ever mindful that the cost will increase.