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Flixcopalypse Now! (And What You Should Be Looking For)

Netflix is losing two hit sitcoms from the 90s and 00s and you’d think the world as we know it was about to end.

Well, the TV world anyway.

For some reason, the fact that NBCU is taking back The Office and Warner is taking back Friends seems to have woken up the mainstream media about the major changes the TV industry is about to go through.

Sort of, kind of.

They’re still largely hung up on the notion of “Netflix killer” as if it were a winner-take-all-game and the market couldn’t handle a wide variety of Flixes.

Netflix is a funny beast too in that it seems to evoke Apple-like worship/hatred—like Apple, there are some observers who obsessively defend everything the company does as unrecognized genius and others who view their every move as an obvious mistake.

The truth, of course, is somewhere in between, but you won’t get as many clicks saying that.

Here’s our TVREV take on what’s going on and (more important) what to look for.

The Effect of the Flixcopalypse: With eight Flixes in play (let’s assume CBS/Viacom is going to happen and they’ll be number eight) consumers are going to shift a good amount of their viewing to Flixovision which will result in the following:

  • There will be massive churn. Viewers will cycle between platforms bingeing shows and dropping and adding services, keeping maybe three or four at at time. To the point that “what are you subscribing to now?” will be a common icebreaker in 2020.
  • Cord cutting will finally happen in earnest. Cord cutting, that mythical beast that never really happened (actual 2018 stats, not bullshit survey stats, show that only 0.65% of pay TV subs actually left the ecosystem, because vMVPDs) is going to start happening. Not the “massive wave” that you hear about, but it could go up to 6%-8% a year as viewers ask themselves why they’re paying for something they never watch.
  • Look for super-skinny bundles. That will be how vMVPDs respond to cord cutting. The super skinny bundles will be the local broadcast stations, with news and RSNs as add-ons.
  • Look for smaller/less focused cable networks to go under. Or at least pivot to production company mode, producing 5-15 hours of originals each week that they will sell to various Flixes, MVPDs and vMVPDs.
  • The various Flixes will spend the next three to five years figuring out who they are and what they stand for. Even if they don’t do it consciously, audiences and critics will do it for them. But they will all eventually develop some sort of rep.
  • There’s no way to know who comes out on top. And don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise. TV is an art, not a science and it’s going to come down to who has the shows that resonate best with viewers. Since, as we’ve noted here ad nauseum, you can have the best directors, writers, producers and actors and still create a flop, there’s no way to know whose shows are going to be hits and whose will be flops and how much that is going to matter to subscribers in the long run if they’re getting other things (reruns they want to see or sports) from the Flix in question.

Unanswered Questions That Could Change The Above

  • How will HBO Max deal with current HBO subs? There are around 55 million people subscribing to HBO in the US, mostly via MVPDs. So does Warner grandfather them all in to HBO Max, thus starting out with 55 million subs but majorly pissing off Comcast et al.? How many of those people subscribe to HBO because it’s part of whatever bundle they have and they don’t want to spend two hours on the phone trying to unsubscribe, only to find their cable bill has actually gone up. And what about HBO NOW subscribers, will they get grandfathered in too, possibly at the current NOW price point? There’s a lot Bob Greenblatt and team need to figure out, some of which we’d detailed here.
  • Will the press about the loss of Friends and The Office hurt Netflix? We’re thinking “not at all.” As someone on one of our socials (and apologies, can’t remember who it was) said “it’s like finding out your favorite restaurant no longer carries one of your favorite desserts.” So a little disappointing but not a reason to cancel or the reason why anyone signs up.
  • What will NBCUflix’s programming look like? It will be ad-supported, but will they make billions of dollars of high quality originals like everyone else or will they focus on things like reality competitions and more mainstream TV shows?
  • If CBS/Viacom happens, will they buy Discovery? That’s the rumor, and if they do and put that all into one Great Big Flix along with Pluto and Showtime, it’s going to be a serious competitor. Will they even launch a Flix is also a relevant question, or will they just continue with their current plan of having a cluster of independent services?
  • Will Apple ever figure out distribution? Or will they stubbornly continue to refuse to roll out a $29 Apple TV stick? Because it’s not like Roku and Amazon are going to cut them any deals or do them any favors.
  • Will Apple buy a network or studio or FAST to round out their offering? Because once you’ve watched the two or three series you want to see, then what? A bigger library of reruns and/or movies would help. And it’s not like they don’t have the cash.
  • Will the industry find a way to standardize measurements (plural) on all these OTT platforms?  They need to do something to ensure that OTT ad spend begins to bear some resemblance to the number of viewers and a common currency/standard is going to help. A lot.
  • When will The Great Rebundling Begin? To reiterate our thoughts on this, it’s going to happen as a way to reduce churn and will happen in three ways:
    • The Flixes themselves offering deals for viewers who sign up for a year rather than month-to-month
    • The Devices (Roku, Amazon and Apple, maybe VIZIO, LG and Samsung) offering up various bundles of Flixes on a yearly basis, maybe even making that part of what you get when you buy one, e.g., “buy a Roku and get any 5 Flixes for just $49.99/month for the first six months.”
    • The vMVPDs and MVPDs. It won’t be all that different from how they bundle in HBO, Cinemax and Showtime right now.

So there you have it. Check back in six months and we can see how this all played out.