The death of collective content
There's no question: We are witnessing a new era of cable on the rise, only this time we are calling it by a different name.
Okay, let's be honest, Netflix isn't going to die anytime soon. It is a streaming conglomerate; it is the quintessential platform for all movies, tv shows and documentaries. It is the Google of the television market. If it were a breakfast food, it would be pancakes.
Streaming our collective shows, while seemingly stronger than ever before, is, however, inadvertently dying. It's a slow death, but one that is inevitable. Why? Because every company and their mothers are now dipping their feet in the streaming pool. Disney, Warner Brothers, NBC, and of course, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook. The list goes on and on and on. With that said, you'd think streaming could only grow from here. Eh, not likely. What we are witnessing is the peak of collective video streaming (how many times can I say 'streaming' in one article?), and it will only go downhill from here.
If you think back to when Netflix first launched their online service in 2011, you'll remember that it was met with skepticism. Streaming wasn't exactly new, but it hadn't taken off yet. Those who had the service loved it, being able to watch any show whenever they wanted, but those who didn't have it took their time with jumping on the bandwagon. After all, for many (myself included) Comcast and other cable companies still had their greedy hooks in our backs.
But then the subscriber base started to snowball, and soon, it seemed like everyone had a Netflix account. That, or everyone knew of a username and password to access the app. Sharing is caring. And today, Netflix is the norm - if you don't have it, you get stared at by others. You end up looking like some hipster revolutionary. I bet you also still use a flip-phone and listen to Tokio Hotel on your iPod Nano.
However, Netflix's reign has always been threatened. Hulu, Amazon and YouTube caught on to the hype, and soon there were nearly half-a-dozen streaming services, all with their own original shows, licensing deals and monthly subscriptions. So here's the question: Doesn't forcing people to choose between streaming services defeat the purpose? How, in any way, is having five or six steaming apps any different than paying for cable?
The answer you'll hear most often is that steaming allows you to watch what you want, when you want. But let's not forget that Comcast and other major network companies were already allowing you to do so by incorporating their On Demand functionalities. And then we got DVR and TiVo, giving users further control. Whatever channels you were subscribed to, you could access through a catalogue of ready-to-watch television shows and films. Yes, just like Netflix. It might have been more limited, but the idea was identical. You watch what you want, when you want, depending on what you decide to pay for.
Here's the thing. As more and more companies create streaming services and apps, and they start cancelling licensing contracts with Netflix and Hulu, the more quickly we are reverting back to the very concept of cable. Oh, you want to watch "Stranger Things" and "The Office"? You'll need to subscribe to both Netflix and NBC. Oh, you now want to watch a Marvel flick? Pull out the wallet, baby - time to subscribe to Disney+!
I know I'm not the first person to have this thought; chances are, you've always wondered where video streaming is headed. It's a major talking point these days, especially with films making billions of dollars at the box office. Where will I have to go to watch "Endgame"? How many more times can I watch 'Friends' all the way through before they take it off of Netflix? It might seem silly, but these are actual concerns we movie buffs and TV fanatics have. It's an expensive world. We can only subscribe to so much.
What I believe will happen is that some big network company, like Comcast, is going to create a bundle plan. For $80/month, you get all the streaming services. Or something like that. Sounds great, right? Yeah, it is, but let me ask you this - how is that any different from paying for cable? Yes, you get to watch your favorite shows whenever you want to, but you're literally dishing out money to have access to a dozen different stations of content, with one parent company behind it all. Call it what you want, but that's just fancy, modern day cable.
So maybe I'm wrong, and instead, everything stays the same. It's unlikely, but possible. People choose what services they want, and they stick to those companies and pray that more shows are added, making their dollar worth more. But let me ask you this: If a competitor to Spotify popped up and started buying the likeness of your favorite bands, meaning, certain artists were only permitted to release music on that specific app, how would your music streaming change? And if more competitors came around and started doing the same thing, eventually you'd have to buy multiple subscriptions just to listen to a new song. Tell me, how is that any different than just buying the song off of iTunes?
So let's call it the collective content service - a place where everything you want to watch is available. It is that, the concept of having everything at once, that is dying. Pulled apart show-by-show, until eventually we are only subscribed to channels of content. Flipping to a new sitcom or blockbuster will be no different than hitting 'channel up' on a remote control.
And don't get me wrong, there are pros and cons to this. Cable isn't the death of television and movies, it's just different, more restrictive. We are reverting back to what we were trying to push away from, and while there isn't anything horribly wrong with that, it is still alarming how quickly the process is unfolding.
Anyway, rant over. I'm exhausted now, aren't you? Go put your feet up and massage your calves. You've had a tough day.
I'm going to go watch "The Office" for the fifth time before NBC steals it.