Risk of streaming fatigue as Walmart, AT&T, Disney join fray

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<pAs Walmart<pIn a way, the overabundance of streaming services echoes the proliferation of too many cable channels in the traditional cable model and the old complaint of "so many channels and nothing is on." Back then, cable companies forced you to get those channels and raised monthly fees regularly. Now the power is shifting to the consumer: if they don't want to watch something, they don't buy it.

<pThe streaming market is growing, although at a slowing pace. EMarketer expects the number of people who use one or more video services in the U.S. to grow about 4 percent to 206 million by 2020. Google's YouTube and Netflix are the clear winners so far. YouTube has an estimated 191 million users and Netflix about 133 million, according to eMarketer. Amazon has been nipping at its heels, with an estimated 90 million.

<pNewer upstarts will face a tough battle to compete.

<pEach company is hoping its own exclusive content will pique viewers' interest. Walmart and MGM will debut an update on "Mr. Mom." WarnerMedia has HBO's arsenal of hit shows like "Game of Thrones." Disney has an endless stream of popular movies such as "Frozen" and the "Star Wars" and Marvel franchises. It's also planning original shows based on those franchises.

<pCompanies risk extinction if they cannot create their own versions of "Must See TV" shows of the past, said Seth Shapiro, a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

<p"How many things are people going to want to pay for at once? How many subscriptions can the market bear?" he said. Services "that are sort of nice to have but not really essential will fall by the wayside."

<pThe contest has parallels to the DVD-by-mail competition more than a decade ago. In 2002, Walmart created its own online DVD rental service to compete with Netflix. But the retailer ended that in 2005 and transferred its customers to Netflix, signaling the world's largest retailer couldn't beat the internet upstart at its own game.