Ireland loves Netflix.
By 2017 – just five years after arriving here – 42% of Irish households have subscribed. The UK market, which also joined Netflix in 2012, only reached a few months ago.
Netflix's rise has been accompanied by new concepts such as binge watching – which make viewers watch multiple episodes of the program in one sitting.
But it also helped shape consumer spending habits, encouraging "cable-cutting" (where households would throw up expensive pay-TV services in favor of on-demand streaming) and "nevers cables" (new households that don't take over traditional pay-TV service).
In Ireland, 65% of households picked up pay for TV services in 2017 – compared to 69% in 2013. In addition, there are certainly others who reduced or switched to cheaper packages – opting to receive fewer channels in exchange for a smaller monthly bill.
"Netflix and other streamers have normalized the expectation that you will receive content when you want it, in the formats you want at an affordable price," said Mathew Horsman, director of the Mediatique consulting group, which has conducted research into the Irish market for a number of organizations, including the Irish Agency for broadcasting and RTÉ.
At the core of Netflix's early draw was a picture of a store with hundreds of years worth of great television and film. This may have been the case in the early days, but ironically its success means that today the characterization is no longer valid.
In the past few months, the platform has dropped large chunks of high content – from Marvel’s Avengers to Tolkien’s fellowship. Other big draws, like Friends and the US office, are also on the way out.
The reason for the exodus? Other studios want in the streaming market.
Netflix has been competing with Amazon Prime Video as a competition since late 2016, and during that time Sky's Now TV service was also a growing force. In a very short time, however, the market is set in a lot of crowds.
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The first of the new challengers is Apple, which launched its streaming service this month. Disney's offer, meanwhile, is coming to market next week – though Irish viewers will have to wait until March 2020.
Next year, US television channels HBO and NBC will clash, though neither has said they plan to make their way across the Atlantic.
But even if they don’t, there are five big streaming players left in the Irish market. It is unclear what this means for the sector – except for the fact that much more money will be spent on programming in the coming years.
That in itself raised the question of sustainability – as Netflix takes on more debt to compete with the deep pockets of Apple, Amazon and Disney.
But how sustainable this change is for consumers is also doubtful, as they will now have to navigate through more of its catalog content.
Many households may be able and willing to pay more streaming subscriptions – but few will be able to justify paying as much as € 49 per month to access all available platforms.
Others can opt for a "cycle" through different streaming platforms – subscribe briefly to watch what's new before they opt out of another service. However, power providers will do what they can to discourage them, since it is already much more difficult for many to leave than to join.
This means that many will have to decide what they will see and what they will miss.
"There is a danger of getting a subscription type, video-on-demand fatigue," Mr Horsman said. "I think more people will take on more subscriptions, but I think there's a bigger limit to cross."
Opportunity houses behind the old guard
It's ironic that this expansion of streaming options could stop the trend of cable cutting. or at least open up space for companies to position themselves as new one-stop shops & # 39; for TV and movie.
"This whole range of subscription services can, unusually, put the emphasis back on grouping," Mr Horsman said. "People will say, 'if someone offers me Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, and if I take all three, they'll give me a discount,' so let them pay for the television again!"
Sky has already taken a sharp step in that direction, linking Netflix to its Sky Q. Eir's new TV service is Apple TV-based, which includes giving users a year of free access to Apple TV +. Meanwhile, both Apple and Amazon already allow users to add other subscription services to their own as "channels."
This shift could also create an opportunity for traditional television stations such as the BBC, RTÉ and Virgin Media, assuming that they can better satisfy audiences who want on-demand content while still pulling programs and films from various sources.
"What the BBC has done is seek approval for 12 months of compensation [on the iPlayer], not in 30 days, "said Mr. Horsman." So that's a very aggressive change in the offering – and it's doing more of the things that make iPlayer like Netflix. "
But regardless of the benefits traditional broadcasters still have, they will still have to compete under conditions increasingly dictated by streamers. First of all, this means that RTÉ Player and BBC iPlayer players will have to fight harder than ever to win a place on every smartphone, tablet and smartphone in the country.