(Welcome to my series on an “Intelligence Preparation of the “Streaming Wars” Battlefield”. Combining my experience as a former Army intelligence officer and streaming video strategy planner, I’m applying a military planning framework to the “streaming wars” to explain where entertainment is right now, and where I think it is going. Read the rest of the series through these links:
Part I – Define the Battlefield
Defining the Area of Operations, Interest and Influence in the Streaming Wars
Unrolling the Map – The Video Value Web…Explained
Aggreggedon: The Key Terrain of the Streaming Wars is Bundling
In November, a war started.
Fortunately, in this war, no one will die and the biggest risk is to the stock price of ViacomCBS. If the biggest war our current generation is a streaming war, then the future isn’t all gloom and doom.
Since I’m writing an “intelligence preparation of the battlefield” for the streaming wars, it sort of begs the question: if the streaming wars are a war, what kind of war are they? To prove I’m not making a straw man here, here’s a host of articles asking about the streaming wars, but no one tying them to the best comparable war.
I was a history major and in the military. I should be able to figure this out. Let’s do it.
1. Will rank wars from “easily discarded” to “Pretty darn close”. Scroll down to the bottom to find out the winner(s).
2. One imaginary war per section.
3. I’m fairly “American” so all of these wars will inevitably come from that bias viewpoint.
The Civil War (and most other civil wars)
The case for the Civil War—and other civil wars—is that the entertainment industry itself is like a country riven by sectarian strife. The Confederates would be the traditional studio conglomerates and cable MVPDs clinging to their profits, while upstart streamers are, I guess, the Union? Trying to impede the new movement? Or maybe switch the two and the streamers are the Confederates splitting off from the Union? See, it doesn’t really work.
The Persian Gulf War or Franco-Prussian War
The problem with these wars is they were too darn quick, each lasting under a year. The streaming wars won’t end any time soon.
Alexander the Great, The Huns or The Khans Conquer the Known World
Every so often, some military leader just up and conquered most of the known world. Four years ago, we probably would have said Netflix was set up to do just this. Yet, unlike the foes who fell under Alexander, Attila and Genghis, the traditional studios may have a fighting chance to defend their territory.
Independence Day War
This is the fictional version of massively powerful invaders taking over everything, just this time with aliens. We only have two sides in this war, where the streaming wars are multi-polar, so we’ll need some better analogies.
Closer, but Key Flaws
We have our first “traditional” war where two massive powers square off for domination of, literally, Western civilization. If Carthage had defeated Rome, all of human history may have taken a different course. (Instead of Rome, the Western World would have been centered around North Africa.) If the upstart tech streamers defeat the traditional entertainment conglomerates, the results for investors may be similarly momentous.
The challenge is we’re not dealing with two united sides in the streaming wars. Disney+ is fighting for control from HBO Max as much as they are fighting Netflix and Amazon. However, if I did make this analogy, it would mean Ted Sarandos is Hannibal and his elephants are Netflix originals powered by algorithms. Which could mean Bob Iger is Scipio Africanus, but now we’re going too far.
The French Revolution
Revolutions are like Civil Wars, just without sides or uniforms. Which make it tough to compare to our streaming wars. Sure, our combatants don’t wear uniforms—well, NBC Pages do, but you know what I mean—but you have to like the symbolism of revolution. Streamings isn’t a war, but a “digital revolution” in how we receive content!
That has an ethos of “power to the people” who are rising up and saying, “No more high cable prices, I’m cutting the cord!” Of course, the data doesn’t support that—most Netflix subscribers have cable; most cord cutters pay well below costs for content—but it sounds good.
The Cold War
If I took points from The French Revolution for not wearing uniforms, well no one wore any uniforms in the Cold War either. This war was waged via proxies, spies and nuclear stock piles. All of which I have a tough time comparing to the streaming wars. In its favor, The Cold War was a global enterprise, with battlefields from a divided Germany to Vietnam to Latin America to China to Korea to Afghanistan. The streaming wars will match that scope.
War of the Ring (Lord of the Rings)
Human-Covenant War (Halo)
Lots of science fiction or fantasy works have two sides squaring off for all the marbles just like the Punic Wars:
Lord of The Rings. This is the literary equivalent of the Punic Wars. The humans battled Sauron for literal survival. And somehow a hobbit saved humanity.
Halo. This is the video game equivalent of the Punic Wars. The humans battled the Covenant for literal survival. And somehow a super-soldier saved humanity.
Pretty Darn Close