It sounds like the world's biggest streamers will only become more expensive in the future, if comments made by a Warner Bros. executive are to be believed.
According to Warner Bros' chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels (per The Hollywood Reporter), the world's best streaming services have been "giving away" content for paltry amounts of cash in recent times. And, while Wiedenfels doesn't outright confirm that more price rises are imminent, he suggests that users will have to part with more of their hard-earned money if they want to watch movies and TV shows on Netflix, Max, and more in the coming years.
"For a decade, in streaming, an enormously valuable amount of quality content has been given away well below fair market value," Wiedenfels said during a virtual appearance at the the Bank of America Securities Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference. "And I think that’s in the process of being corrected.
"We’ve seen price increases across essentially the entire competitive set. We’ve increased prices, especially internationally, where a lot of the HBO Max launches were very, very much targeted at the maximum possible subscriber number, not necessarily the maximum possible economics from the launch."
Cord cutting, but at what cost?
Wiedenfels' quotes surely serve as a warning to streaming superfans about the potential for more price increases to come. In February 2023, HBO Max – the Warner Bros. Discovery-owned (WBD) streamer that evolved into Max in May – saw its first-ever price rise, with subscribers asked to fork over an extra dollar per month.
In July, Netflix silently killed off its cheapest ad-free plan for US and UK viewers, which means new users can now only choose between its more affordable ad-supported tier, or pay over twice as much for a standard subscription. One month later, the Walt Disney Company confirmed that it would be raising the price of Disney Plus and Hulu from October onwards as it looks to balance the books following a period of excessive spending.
Being subscribed to two or more streaming platforms is already a financial burden for most users. However, if and when further price increases are announced, even more households will find it increasingly difficult to remain signed up to one service, let alone two or even three. In short: many of you will find yourselves wondering how to cancel Netflix or other services you're signed up to.
That's if people haven't already started leaving the biggest streamers in their droves. With password-sharing crackdowns taking effect, beloved TV show cancellations, and the potential dearth of new streaming content in the months ahead because of the ongoing writers and actors strikes, users are already getting less bang for their buck.
In fact, the cost of Netflix and Disney Plus means streaming is now more expensive than cable TV is. Cord cutting might have taken off over the past decade, but it's starting to look like a far less appetizing option for anyone wanting to watch new movies and TV series on any number of streaming platforms.
So yes, Netflix might see a bump in subscribers when massively successful shows like Stranger Things season 5 and Squid Game season 2 drop. Equally, Disney Plus will retain some fans who continue to enjoy its TV offerings from Marvel and Star Wars. As for Max and other leading streamers, the return of popular shows, and addition of critically-acclaimed movies to their libraries, will boost user bases, too.
In the grander scheme of things, however, customers will only put up with price rises for so long. And if, to use Weidenfel's words, the "quality content" these services provide isn't considered good enough for viewers, they won't need another excuse to cancel their plan. Eventually, something will have to give – and I suspect it won't be the entertainment industry's biggest studios that'll drop the price of their streaming subscriptions out of the goodness of their hearts.