Let’s talk about streaming services.
When Netflix began streaming about ten years ago it really was the best option. Other services came and went, but Netflix become synonymous with streaming. Prime and Hulu existed, but they didn’t have the content Netflix did. It was a glorious time and offered consumers a real alternative to cable.
Now all that is probably going to end.
Production companies want all the money. Aiming for profit is fine, but we are witnessing the complete destruction of a service just to get more money out of people. Right now, there are ten umbrella streaming services—and dozens more subscription channels people can subscribe to. The argument seems to be that paying for two, three, or five streaming services is still “cheaper than cable,” and that may be true right now—but probably not for long.
Disney+ is going to change the game. Whether we want to acknowledge the cultural power of Disney or not, they are most likely the biggest production company in the world. Their depth of content is going to allow them to crush the market. I am willing to bet that $6.99 a month price tag will skyrocket once they destroy the competition. (However, I suppose we could discuss how much competition there really is as Disney Studios owns almost every successful film release in 2019).
I think we have all seen this coming. I haven’t heard anyone muster even a fake amount of surprise that we will probably have 50+ streaming options (damn near every channel is going to get a streaming app or a subscription option). Instead, people just seem sad that the inevitable end has arrived. Now, we have to ask if just getting cable is cheaper, but then we have to deal with the problem of original content (which even cable providers are starting).
When you hear companies talk about access, choice, and freedom in their services remember that is a cover for “we didn’t want to share the pie with anyone else.” Everyone saw what Netflix had and just couldn’t let a good thing go.
I may sound like a sort of Netflix guardian—I am not. The company has proven fairly inept in approaching something that we all knew was coming. Part of the reason for writing this rant was that I couldn’t find anything worth watching on our three (!) streaming services. As these services become more isolated from one another we will be stuck with their original content. For Netflix, this means that about 95% of it will be subpar. Sure, they have the most (and might even have more good programming than Prime, but they also have so much bad), but they don’t feel like they have the best. A major part of this is that Netflix flops don’t get swept under the rug like a movie that bombs in the theater. It stays available to stream and works as a constant reminder of its suckiness every time you log on.
Consumers, as always, will end up getting the short end here. If you want to watch The Terror, Handmaid’s Tale, and Stranger Things you won’t be able to do this on one service. I know a few folks who have chosen one and stuck with it due to not having to have multiple lists, formats, and menus to fight through. While they are missing some great content, I can’t argue that this situation is only going to get more frustrating.
Over the weekend Netflix announced some big names and new films coming out. (It is odd to address something in real time—this is the first time the backlog has vanished in a few years). Good for them, but what about the addition of numerous other services? The problem still remains. Everyone wanting to jump in on the cash wagon is going to drastically limit consumer options.
I don’t have a solution and I don’t think there really is one. I do hope that folks will reject the whole sales pitch about more options or whatever else. This whole issue is companies wanting to corner as much of the market and limit not expand consumer options.