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Week In Review: Amazon Adds New Remote Buttons, Comcast Adds Disney+ and ESPN+ to X1

1. Amazon Adds New Remote Buttons

So on the surface, the fact that Amazon added buttons to the Fire TV remote for Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and Netflix seems like an incredibly minor blip in the TV news cycle. 

And in many ways it is. 

But given the hoops that Amazon is making other Flixes jump through because they want to send viewers directly to their apps without passing Go (or the Fire TV home page anyway) it assumes greater significance.

Why It Matters

If you recall, HBO Max and Peacock;s major sticking point with Amazon was that they did not want shortcuts to their shows to wind up on Amazon’s home page, where viewers might not realize which provider the show was from. They wanted viewers to have to go straight to the app.

There were all sorts of reasons why they wanted this, having to do with viewer data, ad revenue and overall stickiness.

So it seems fair to ask why Amazon, Hulu, Disney+ and Netflix get a pass.

On the surface (and under the surface too) it seems like Amazon is playing favorites. The four Flixes favored with buttons are the four Flixes favored by viewers. They have established themselves and their user bases and it’s likely that Amazon realizes that if they try and mess with any of them and they walk, then Amazon is the big loser.

Contrast that with other services, where Amazon feels a lot more comfortable flexing their muscles. Right now, not many viewers are going to swap out their Fire TV stick because they can’t get Peacock. But you can bet there would be massive defections if they couldn’t get Netflix.

So that’s a big new lesson of the streaming wars: there might not be clear-cut winners and losers, but there are definitely haves and have-nots. (Though I suspect who fits into those categories will change over time.)

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re a Have Not, you need to up your programming and marketing game and maybe lean on the smart TV OEMs too–they’ve been upping their interface game, and so a deal or promotion designed to get viewers to wean themselves off their Amazon and Roku sticks might be worth it.

If you’re Amazon (or Roku) consider making those buttons programmable. I mean I get why you don’t–you likely made millions selling the real estate and you want programmers to pay through the nose for the ability to bypass your home screen, but, for instance, my Roku remote has a Playstation Vue button. Since they’re no longer around, maybe give me the option to reprogram that particular button?

If you’re a viewer, those buttons are indeed incredibly useful, far more so than the voice commands both companies keep trying to get me to use.

2. Comcast Adds Disney+ and ESPN+ to X1

While it’s fashionable in many circles to complain about how awful cable TV is, the fact remains that a sizable number of Americans–maybe even most of them–really don’t mind it. 

They like their set top boxes, all those hundreds of channels and the giant VOD libraries that come with them. And to make sure they keep liking them, smart players like Comcast are integrating the major streaming services—in this case Disney+ and ESPN+— into their interfaces so that viewers don’t have to switch interfaces to watch them.

Why It Matters

There are still many viewers who are delighted to watch old school cable TV with a little Netflix action on the side. For them, Netflix is just HBO with more VOD titles. They have no desire to watch Apple TV+, have likely never heard of Peacock and think that Pluto is Mickey’s dog.

But they’ve heard about Disney+ and their kids want to watch it and that means having the hassle of finding the other remote and switching to the Roku, Amazon or smart TV interface and then switching back again when the kids are done.

But those nice folks at Comcast have made life easier by integrating Disney+ into the platform, making it both easy to find and hassle free (no more finding the second remote.)

Which likely means no more thinking about giving up Comcast and just going all streaming (at least for now.) So a wise move on Comcast’s part.

It also reinforces the point from the Amazon remote story above: we may not have clear cut winners and losers, but we definitely have Haves and Have Nots.

So welcome to the Haves club, Disney. (Think of ESPN+ as Disney+’s “Plus One”.)

The puns, they just keep coming.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re another MVPD or vMVPD, Comcast is on to something here and it would be worthwhile for you to emulate them. Give your subscribers access to some streaming services and they’ll stick around a little longer. But what you really want to do is start transitioning them to bundles of Flixes while jacking up their broadband speed. This is a five or maybe even 10 year plan, but at some point they’re not going to want all those cable channels any more and you’re going to have all the fixed 5G players breathing down your back. So be proactive.

If you’re a Flix, you’re going to want to work with the MVPDs to get people watching your service. You have to take the long view here–you may lose money in the short term by having to split subscription fees with them, but the people you’ll attract via Comcast are not people who would have otherwise thought to subscribe, and once they do, it’s much easier to transition them to higher priced options. 

If you’re a Comcast viewer and all you really want from streaming is Netflix and Disney, this is a really good deal and it’s easy. At some point you’ll probably grow tired of all those cable channels or realize how much you’re overpaying, but for now, there’s no need to sweat it.