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‘If I were betting, I’d bet on Disney,’ says former HBO exec Kary Antholis


Competition within the streaming space intensifies by the day, and the impending debut of Disney+ on November 12 is doing little to assuage concerns from giants like Netflix (NFLX).

Kary Antholis – who has overseen Academy Award, Emmy, and Golden Globe-winning projects such as Chernobyl, Angels in America, Olive Kitteridge, and John Adams – spoke with The Final Round on Tuesday about the future of cable television as digital competition intensifies and concerns of the inevitable reckoning within the streaming space.

Alternate digital platforms are ‘less expensive, less pressured’

As the former president of HBO miniseries and Cinemax programming, Antholis is acutely aware of the extraordinary competition within the cable television industry – and it’s partially why he has recently jumped into the podcast space instead.

Antholis’s new venture, Crime Story, is a website is dedicated to stories about crime and justice – a popular, if saturated, genre right now, given the success of shows like Mindhunter and The Night Of.

“There’s an appetite out there to hear from the people behind the camera on these shows,” explained Antholis. “There’s not a big video appetite for that, and the costs that you have to sink into video are prohibitive. But the podcast gives you an opportunity to talk to people like Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), or Steve Zaillian (The Night Of), or Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder (Serial).”

For his purposes, however, seeking an alternate digital platform – such as a podcast – was in his best interest.

“[Podcasts are] a lot less expensive ... to get into the space and to experiment,” said Antholis. “The long-term idea is that we’re building intellectual property for exploitation in documentaries and in long-form shows. The other opportunity here is to find emerging voices in a less expensive, less pressured area, and allow those voices to find themselves and to explore the stories and the issues that are at play here.”

‘There will be a reckoning’ for streaming companies

As cable channels contend with the challenges posed by the digital space, streaming giants themselves are suffering from something of an identity crisis: as established media companies rapidly pull their robust catalogues from platforms like Netflix in favor of their own content and services.

“At some point, there will be a reckoning,” Antholis explained. “John Landgraf (chairman of FX Network) has talked about the reckoning coming on video, and at some point...the saturation, there’s just too much stuff to watch. But at the same time, brands will sustain themselves.”

While Netflix has enjoyed its reign within the streaming space, the impending introduction of Disney+ and Apple TV+ has given investor — and consumers —pause, while raising the question of who may be the streaming industry’s next darling.

“My sense is that the people with deep pockets, and the people with a sustainable plan going forward, are going to be the winners,” says Antholis. “When I look at Netflix’s price-to-earnings ratio – and the drive to continue to grow subscribers around the world – I wonder, will there be a reckoning there, when there are several quarters in a row where subscriptions aren’t hitting what they promised the Street?”

But for Antholis, the future victor of the streaming wars is clear.

“I think Disney (DIS) has an amazing collection, and they’re pricing it at a very competitive price,” argued Antholis. “To me, from the outside, they are in a very strong, competitive position. If I were betting, I’d bet on Disney.”

Olivia Balsamo is a writer and producer at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @BalsamoOlivia.

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