As Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken once said: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
That French adage has been used in many films besides John Carpenter’s “Escape from LA,” but it’s an apt description for the changes to media consumption brought about by the rise of streaming services.
While streaming remains revolutionary in some important ways (watch whatever you want whenever you want without commercials!), it has also matured quickly in the last few years, and the end result has been an experience that shares many similarities with the old-school economy of entertainment.
Picture this: You’re perusing a list of Cable television providers: HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, STARZ, and many others. They all have at least one of two shows or movies that you’d like to see, but you can’t afford to pay for all of them. Instead, you must choose what you prefer the most.
This is increasingly the exact same experience that many people now have with streaming. A single monthly subscription to Netflix might be less than a Cable subscription 20 years ago, but what if you also want HBO Max, Hulu, Disney+, Paramount, CBS All Access, or one of the many others?
Very quickly, you’ll find yourself paying more each month for a handful of streaming services than you were paying for Cable just a few years ago.
Yes, there are increasing numbers of “package deals” that allow you to pay a discounted fee for access to several different streaming options, but the fact remains that the economy of streaming results in more money from your wallet. A Cable plan might have cost anywhere from $50-$100 a month, on average, but you still had access to a vast number of options.
This “a la carte” approach to streaming will likely evolve quickly in the next few years, said Bardya Ziaian, a Canadian filmmaker and entrepreneur.
The majority of consumers have moved their watching online, and nothing is going to bring back the mandatory commercials of years past, Bardya Ziaian said. Streaming has already changed so much. It’s going to be pretty fascinating to see what the landscape looks like in another few years.
Consumers want the option to pay more to avoid advertisements, and it seems clear that streaming services will continue to make that available.
In other words, streaming has created more options for how and when we view content, but that also means a more complicated ecosystem that demands a greater degree of attention and know-how.
There’s increasing awareness that the growth of online subscriptions of all kinds — for apps, games and software, as well as streaming — has resulted in a constant drain on bank accounts, with many people unaware how much they’re actually paying each month.
It has increased dramatically in just the last few years. A recent report from West Monroe polled 2,500 consumers about what they spend each month on a variety of subscription services.
They concluded that people are spending 15 percent more than they did in 2018.
“The types of subscriptions have also expanded as more companies create digital platforms and offerings to lure in consistent customers,” ZDNet reported.
The relationship between streaming and film, especially the big-budget spectaculars that have been the tentpoles of American popular culture for decades, is also more complicated. Thanks to the pandemic, there has been a sudden explosion in how these films are released.
Many of the biggest films slated for release in 2020 and 2021 were released on streaming platforms without a theatrical release, or at the same time as their theatrical releases, or published on an online platform after just a month in theaters.
“These big-budget releases might have eventually made their way to streaming without the pandemic, but it was going to happen regardless,” Ziaian said. “As a film lover myself, what I find even more interesting is that movie theaters have already made a comeback, despite all the naysayers.”
The future of both film and television clearly lies in streaming content online — it’s just too convenient for consumers to give it up.
But what will streaming look like in another few years? It’s impossible to say for sure, but it’s likely to be an even more complicated ecosystem that we have right now.