Dan Harmon, the creator of critically acclaimed shows such as Community and Rick and Morty released a short series, Harmonquest, exclusively on the streaming service SeeSo. Naturally, I signed up for a free trial and binge watched the show in five hours. Beyond Harmonquest, SeeSo offers a load of popular comedy shows as well as quite a few entertaining original shows. To top it all off, it’s only $4 a month! However, I decided to promptly end my subscription afterwards. But why wasn’t SeeSo able to retain this subscriber to their service? What is SeeSo and the rest of the streaming industry doing wrong?
When it comes to streaming movies and television shows, consumers aren’t asking for an be-all, end-all product. Here are the three most important characteristics of a quality streaming service. First and foremost is abundance and customization. Big streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu all have a wide selection of quality shows, with the ability to favorite shows and customize their viewing experience.
Almost every single service offers customization by making your own account, and services like Crackle and Tubi TV have tons of content to pick from, however, if you subscribe to Crunchyroll or Acorn TV you’ll find yourself surrounded with content directed at niche audiences. This can both work in favor or against a particular service, but may still fall within a customizable experience.
The second factor, and arguably more important than the first is that a streaming service must provide high quality, smooth streaming. This is where many free services, and some paid ones fall short.
On Crackle, if you go on their site to watch a movie, you are stuck with the highest quality stream at 480p. For those wishing to immerse themselves in whatever they are viewing, images riddled with blurry artifacts and muddy sound takes away from the experience. On SeeSo, when I subscribed back in mid-July of 2016, playback would often stutter despite having high connection speeds. Further research shows they have yet to optimize their playback technology for browsers. But even ignoring stuttering playback, there is no option to adjust quality settings for SeeSo, and with no high definition options available, SeeSo commits an unforgivable sin for a paid service.
The final part of streaming’s Holy Trinity is that the desired service can’t cost too much. The streaming industry has been giving cable providers trouble with super competitive pricing at less than $15 a month per service to cable’s monthly $100+ and it’s no surprise why. But this isn’t about how expensive a service is compared to cable, it’s about how they compare against other streaming services. SeeSo, Acorn TV, Crunchyroll, Mubi.com, all cost less than $8 a month. In fact, you could pay for SeeSo and Crunchyroll for the price of Netflix’s standard subscription fee. This is where many smaller streaming services beat the big players, and Netflix continues to gradually raise their subscription prices.
A similar war was fought before the video streaming war even began, and that is in the music industry. Services like Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Pandora Radio, are constantly competing to gain and maintain subscribers to the services.
But how do they go about doing it? Unlike the realm of video, music streaming services can’t rely on simply specializing on a single genre like Acorn TV or Crunchyroll. Their war is shaped a little differently. Pricing will always come up when comparing services and Spotify has taken several steps to directly compete with Apple Music – lowering their family plan from $30 a month to only $15 for six users directly competing with Apple Music’s family plan at the same cost and number of users, and exclusives shine in the spotlight with Tidal pulling in users by getting first dibs on popular new releases.
While it may be nice to stick with comfortable picks like Netflix and Hulu, there are hundreds of other streaming services out there that have a lot to offer to consumers whether it’s unique, quality exclusives or just incredible bang for your buck. Ditch your comfort zone, end try leaving your Netflix or Hulu subscription behind to explore what else is out there for a month, while some experiences may not work out, there’s a chance you’ll find a service that is exactly what you’re looking for.