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Contenders cramming TV streaming arena

San Francisco

LETTING people watch whatever shows they want, wherever they wish on devices of their choice has become such a hit, it is shaking up the television industry.

Here's a look at the competitive landscape in the streaming television market:

Netflix: Netflix began in 1997 as a DVD rental service and expanded a decade later to streaming films and television shows on demand. The company lays claim to inventing "binge viewing" with its practice of releasing all episodes in a series at one time so people can watch them non-stop.

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California-based Netflix has invested heavily in original shows, budgeting US$15 billion this year alone for shows or films made exclusively for the service. Netflix reported having more than 151 million paid members in some 190 countries at the end of September. Netflix streaming subscription prices in the US range from US$9 to US$16 monthly.

Amazon Prime Video: E-commerce and cloud computing colossus Amazon includes on-demand, streaming of television shows and films among perks for Prime members.

Prime memberships in the US cost US$119 annually or US$13 monthly, and include free, speedy shipping on goods bought from Amazon.

Amazon, which claims to have more than 100 million Prime members, spends heavily on original shows for its streaming service but has released few details about finances.

Hulu: Hulu was launched in late 2007 as a joint venture involving News Corporation and NBCUniversal. The streaming platform is now controlled by Disney, which has a 60 per cent stake and full operational control.

Hulu touts having more than 85,000 episodes of on-demand television as well as thousands of movies and more than 60 popular live television channels.

Hulu subscription plans start at US$6 monthly for shows with ads, with an ad-free subscription for US$12 monthly, topping out at US$45 a month for a plan that includes live television broadcasts. It operates in the US market but is believed to be considering global expansion.

Disney: Disney+ video streaming service will launch in the US on Nov 12, spotlighting its blockbuster-making studios.

Disney announced a starting price of US$6.99 monthly, and plans to gradually expand internationally with a start in Europe.

Disney's service will offer its films and TV shows, along with the library it acquired from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox. That includes the Star Wars and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.

Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.

Apple TV: Apple TV+ service will launch on Nov 1 in more than 100 countries at US$4.99 per month and will include a "powerful and inspiring lineup of original shows, movies and documentaries". Apple's streaming service will have limited content at first, promising scripted dramas, comedies and movies as well as children's programmes in the service but the iPhone maker is believed to be investing billions in new content.

HBO Max: WarnerMedia announced plans to launch HBO Max in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights to stream its hugely popular television comedy Friends from Netflix.

As well as all episodes of Friends, the HBO Max platform will group together WarnerMedia's vast library of shows and films, along with premium HBO content including Game of Thrones, and new original programming.

Pricing for the new service has not been announced.

Peacock: NBCUniversal has announced plans for a new streaming television service called Peacock that will feature original shows including a new Battlestar Galactica along with programmes from its own content library.

Peacock, using the longtime NBC logo, is set to launch in April 2020.

The company, a unit of Comcast, offered no details on pricing but said it would have both subscription and ad-supported options.

Others: The global market includes major Chinese firms Baidu and Tencent, among others.

In the US, some individual outlets including CBS and its Showtime premium channel offer a standalone streaming option and the short-form video startup Quibi is expected to launch next year.

Google's video service YouTube also has begun producing original content tied to a bundle offered as an alternative to cable. AFP