I can’t quite shake the feeling that Apple just doesn’t want to be in this business. I mean, yes, they were reportedly in the running for Hulu, and yes, there’s that whole Apple TV thing, but doesn’t anyone else think that, if Apple was serious about making something like this work, it could have done it a long time ago? The infrastructure is there, surely—both technically and in terms of relationships with content providers—from iTunes and the ability to not only buy movies and television shows, but subscribe to and/or rent them. Similarly, Newsstand and iBooks show that if Apple wants to move into a particular space, it’s perfectly able to do so. So is the lack of an Apple Netflix competitor simply down to Apple not wanting to go in that direction just yet? And if so, how long until the company changes its mind?
And here’s the wild card. It’s nowhere near the scale of Netflix yet, but it has the potential, and some level of brand recognition already. With its particular corporate parentage—News Corp/Fox, Disney/ABC and Comcast/NBC Universal—it also has a lot of content already waiting to be streamed, and it has the same website/app format that Netflix does. Now that Hulu isn’t up for grabs anymore—and who’s to say that it being removed from the market wasn’t a sign that its owners suddenly realized what they had in their hands all along?—does it stand a chance of finally growing up and making a serious bid for Netflix’s crown? Possibly, but it’ll need to suffer through some growing pains first, including convincing enough subscribers that the paid Hulu Plus service is worth their time and money, and demonstrating its own value to other content providers, especially the movie studios.
(MORE: Hulu Reaches 1,000,000 Paid Subscribers Early)
These aren’t the only options, of course; who’s to say that Netflix won’t find itself usurped by a company that no one’s really taking seriously just yet (or that doesn’t even exist yet)? Skype Founder Janus Friis’ Vdio, for example, stands a good chance of making it, and just for sheer tenaciousness alone, I can’t bring myself to discount Yahoo!’s “Screen” project.
There are also things like Facebook rentals for TV shows and movies—something I don’t take too seriously, in part because I think that a time-based subscription fee for unlimited usage is the model people prefer, instead of paying per usage, and also because I don’t like to spend that much time on Facebook personally, and therefore assume that no-one else would either.
And there are seemingly-dead-in-the-water resources like Zediva to consider, but the one final option for being the next Netflix is probably Netflix itself. After all, the company isn’t dead yet despite forecasts and suggestions in that direction. What if it can resurrect itself, and find some magical way to satisfy content providers, subscribers and shareholders all at once? Stranger things have happened, and if there’s one thing anyone in the media business loves, it’s a good comeback story.