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Streaming service competition has gone the way of cable

Streaming service competition has gone the way of cable

Streaming service competition has gone the way of cable
June 30
14:00 2022

Netflix. Hulu. HBO Max. Peacock. Amazon Prime Video. Disney+. The past decade has seen the fall of the era of cable and the rise of streaming services. The oversaturation of choices along with increasingly hostile takeovers of intellectual properties has marred the original premise of the platforms.

When Netflix first rose to popularity, it was seen as a spectacular circumvention to the available options at the time: renting movies on physical copies or having a cable package and a DVR that recorded what you wanted to watch. Netflix had a little bit of everything, from all studios and production companies, and was available immediately — no trip to the store or carefully scheduled recording needed. Once companies saw the capitalistic promise of the medium, a mad dash was made to reclaim the intellectual property for their exclusive use, most notably with the emergence of Peacock.

With Netflix reporting its first drop in subscribers in over a decade and considering the addition of advertisements as a part of its service, the company has essentially whittled itself back down to what on-demand cable offered a decade ago. This isn’t the only similarity Netflix and others share with television though — streaming services’ content hoarding has made them little more than glorified TV channels.

To their viewers’ detriment, streaming platforms are locked in an all-out war to outdo one another. Netflix may have Academy Awards and HBO Max may offer titles soon after theatrical release, but their exclusivity racks up monthly charges for their audiences.

Most streaming services cost around $10 for the most basic level of service, and if you want a variety, you’ll have to shell out two or three times that for even more platforms. Some people pay out over $100 a month just to have the ideal amount of access.

Some don’t mind having to sift through two or three different streaming services whenever they want to watch something, and others swear by their favorite platform that has exactly what they want to watch. Even though the system may work for some, it remains an unsustainable model. There’s a reason Netflix is now 40 percent original content, and Hulu and ESPN+ remain separate from Disney+ despite Disney having ownership in all three platforms. Companies will wring out as much profit as possible from their assets, even if it ultimately withers their products down to nothing, and divides content across an aggravating amount of apps.

If streaming services passed the point of no return, then how do we escape this endless streaming cycle? Enter Blockbuster. In its prime, Blockbuster provided not just the ability to see any movie for cheap, but also provided a level of locality to the corporate structure. It also sold ancillary items such as snacks and drinks, ensuring customers would be stocked up for the perfect movie night.

While resurrecting the infamous rental store may not be the exact solution, recreating a physical space for movies is an excellent compromise. If a middleman emerged that offered physical copies of streaming-exclusive content from across several platforms and gathered them all in one space, then all the companies would win out.

The hypothetical third party could even offer a space to watch streaming-exclusive movies in a theater setting, giving companies another avenue of revenue while also providing an enjoyable experience for audiences.

What most enamored those who remember Blockbuster wasn’t the dingey pallor of their establishments or its kitschy design, but the experience of getting to go pick out a movie. Rather than laying in bed, silently scrolling through a list of movies on platform after platform, the rental store encouraged movement and engagement. Storefronts also give an opportunity to engage customers in a way streaming services sorely lack.

A physical space for these companies to converge may not be the ultimate solution, but the necessity for change in some form is apparent. Netflix projects it could lose up to two million subscribers in the coming months, but beyond ads and the removal of account sharing, no remedy seems to be available. Until companies figure out how to ease the tension and become less competitive, you may be better off just seeing what’s on TV.

Featured Illustration By Miranda Thomas

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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