The TV-streaming paradox: Why you may miss the cable bundle

NEW YORK — The future of TV may well be a mishmash of streaming services that could rival the cost of a $100 cable bundle — but that are way more difficult to use.

Disney’s plan for two new streaming services (and possibly more) is just the latest sign that everyone is jumping into the streaming business. It intends to launch a kids-oriented movie and TV streaming service in 2019 that will pull Disney and Pixar films from Netflix, as well as an ESPN sidekick service (minus pro football and basketball) expected early next year. The company is even exploring the possibility of separate streaming services for its Star Wars and Marvel superhero films.

All of that will simply add to a cacophony of existing Netflix-style video services that let you watch what you want, when you want. More are probably on their way, as entertainment companies see profits in controlling not only the creation of their films and shows, but also their distribution.

The downside? Potentially bigger bills, and more work for people who just want to find something to watch. “Ultimately for consumers, it means that experience is dreadful,” says Paolo Pescatore, a vice president with research firm CCS Insight.

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PROBLEM ONE: FINDING STUFF TO WATCH

New Yorker David Berkowitz still pays for cable, streams from Netflix and Amazon, and sometimes buys individual movies from Amazon; his three-year-old daughter already watches “Finding Dory” and “Finding Nemo” on two separate services. The prospect of a new Disney-only service isn’t reassuring. “Having a third thing in the mix seems like a lot to juggle,” he says.

To find stuff to watch, Berkowitz’s family uses a Roku box attached to their TV, which suggests streaming channels the family may like and lets them search for the shows and movies he wants to watch. There are also websites to guide streamers, like justwatch.com.

That’s fine if you know what you’re looking for. But the modern-day channel surfer has it much harder. “There’s going to be a proliferation of niche content,” says Colin Petrie-Norris, CEO of Xumo, a streaming-channel provider for smart TVs. “The way for it to be managed, findable for a user — that has not emerged yet.”

PROBLEM TWO: PAYING THE PRICE

People quit cable because they can’t justify a $100-and-always-climbing monthly payment, especially with so much good stuff on cheaper…

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