It will take years for streaming wars winners to emerge

The streaming wars accelerated in 2019, but it will be a while before the competition sorts itself out and winners emerge, former Showtime Networks CEO Matthew Blank told CNBC on Tuesday.

“It’s going to take years,because of all these free subscribers to see what is happening,” Blank said on “Squawk Box.”

Blank, who spent 20 years leading Showtime Networks until stepping down at the end of 2015, was referring the various promotions for new services in the video streaming space.

Verizon, for example, is offering a free year of Disney,’ and Apple is giving away a free year of Apple TV+ when a customer buys a new iPhone, Mac, iPad or Apple TV box.

AT&T will offer HBO Max, which contains additional content from WarnerMedia beyond HBO’s typical offerings, at no cost to existing “regular” HBO subscribers.

And Comcast, the parent of NBCUniversal, will have a free, ad-supported version of its Peacock service when it launches in April 2020.

“These free subscribers are going to be moving through the universe for the next two or three years for all these services, and you’re really not going to know what these businesses look like,” said Blank.

According to media mogul Barry Diller, new streaming providers are already probably losing billion dollars due to the high price of content — whether it be filming original shows or movies or spending large sums to acquire the rights to shows like “Seinfeld” and “The Office.”

“When the bills start getting paid and these public companies have to announce the losses that they’re taking … these losses by definition have to be in the billions,” Diller, the IAC chairman, said in an October interview on “Squawk Box.” “There is no way around it.”

Despite the fact it may take years for the streaming landscape to fully crystallize, Blank said Netflix will “of course” be a dominant player in five years. He also said Amazon should remain competitive.

With Netflix, in particular, Blank said he was not worried about the amount of money the company is investing in content.

While Apple and Amazon don’t rely on streaming for revenue, video has always been at Netflix’s core, he said.

“That may be their real advantage,” he said. “This is what they do.”

Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC.