Michelle Yan: Streaming services will soon cost you more than cable TV.
Well, maybe not more, but those $10 to $15 monthly subscriptions are definitely gonna start adding up because you want access to all this exclusive content on specific platforms.
Just look at all these popular shows. “Stranger Things?” Netflix exclusive. “Handmaid’s Tale?” Hulu exclusive. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel?” Amazon exclusive. That’s already three different services for a total of about $30 a month.
Think about how you get your content, your movies, and your shows. Is it from cable or is it from a streaming service? Or multiple streaming services?
AJ Caldwell: I have Netflix.
Emma Fierberg: Netflix.
Irene Kim: Netflix, Hulu.
Emma Fierberg: Amazon Prime.
AJ Caldwell: Xfinity Stream.
Emma Fierberg: A little bit of Showtime.
Irene Kim: Now I have Starz, and I pay for HBO when “Game of Thrones” is on.
Michelle Yan: Streaming media is where the viewers are. Cable TV lost almost 4 million subscribers over the past six years, while streaming services like Netflix gained over 27 million subscribers.
Irene Kim: Like, I didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up, just because I didn’t want to sit through the commercials. But now I watch a ridiculous amount of TV because I can go straight to the content.
Emma Fierberg: There are Netflix originals like “Queer Eye,” and “Nailed It,” and “Stranger Things,” and “Big Mouth.”
AJ Caldwell: I like the ability to binge watch TV.
Emma Fierberg: There’s a huge backlog of things like “The Office,” and “Parks and Rec.”
AJ Caldwell: I don’t have to wait until next week to see the next episode.
Emma Fierberg: And then there’s all these comedy specials that I love to watch like John Mulaney and Trevor Noah. And it’s just the best.
Michelle Yan: It makes sense for streaming services to gravitate towards more exclusive and original content to keep their viewers locked in. But us viewers kinda lose, because our favorite movies and shows are being distributed in many different places as opposed to one place. And we have to pay for multiple services to get all the content we want.
But then again, how many people actually pay for their content? According to research, about one in 10 Netflix homes share their accounts.
Emma Fierberg: I don’t pay for any of my streaming services. I’m on my family’s phone plan, and through T-Mobile we have free Netflix.
Irene Kim: I do pay for all the services I use, except for my sister pays for Netflix and we share.
AJ Caldwell: …Why do I pay for Netflix?
Michelle Yan: And what happens when you want to watch something that isn’t available on Netflix or Hulu? You guessed it. Online pirating. Streaming services helped curtail online piracy significantly over the years. But it’s starting to increase now that movies and shows are becoming more and more fragmented across an increasing number of platforms.
One 2018 report showed BitTorrent traffic increased 9.2% in the Americas, 19% in Asia-Pacific countries, and a staggering 32% across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The report even found that countries with a delay to get the latest and greatest content, especially American content, are seeing extremely high growths in piracy. As one writer of the report put it, “To get access to all of these services, it gets very expensive for a consumer, so they subscribe to one or two and pirate the rest.”
Just think, how are people gonna stream all the episodes of “Friends” if it gets pulled from Netflix? They could either watch it on TBS, pay for it on YouTube, Amazon, or Google Play, or might try to Google “watch this movie for free online.” I hate to break it to you, but searching “watch free online” doesn’t exclude you from online pirating.
And the reason shows are no longer available on streaming platforms has a lot to do with licensing. Netflix already canceled most of its Marvel shows, like “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage,” just as Disney, which owns Marvel, is getting ready to launch their own streaming service called Disney+ in 2019. Remember, Disney owns Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, 21st Century Fox, part of Hulu, and more. So, if you were hoping for “Coco” to stay on Netflix in the future, you probably should enjoy it as much as you can before Disney+ comes out.
And AT&T, which owns Warner Bros. and DC Comics is also planning to launch their own streaming service for 2019. The company already has DC Universe, which has shows like “Batman: The Animated Series” and the Superman movies, and naturally, exclusive shows like “Titans” and “Young Justice.” It’s hard not to imagine them launching separate services for “Harry Potter,” “Looney Tunes,” and every other franchise.
Look, I get it. Companies like Disney want to control access to their content rather than letting someone else make money off of it. But this doesn’t benefit the consumer in any way. This fragmented distribution makes content harder to find and consumers are forced to pay more. Plus, it looks like there’s a correlation between the service fragmentation and piracy increase. It looks like consumer wallets are gonna have continue to be dinged with an increasing amount of $10 to $15 services, which may lead them to quit some, turn to piracy, and force companies to take a different approach.