It’s Friday, and you want to have a movie night. So you sit down with friends, roommates, alone or whatever your preference is, and you look for a movie. Time to open Netflix. And Hulu. And HBO Max. And Amazon Prime. And Disney+. And Apple TV+. Oh, what about Peacock? Where’s that movie you suggested again? And do you have a Roku? Or Chromecast?
There are too many streaming services, so many that it’s negating the convenience of why streaming services came into existence to begin with. That’s the cold, hard truth that many are coming to realize as watching TV and movies becomes more and more complicated. With each new streaming service that enters the mix comes a reshuffling of shows and movies. Some services have rights to some content, while others don’t, an example being the endless stream of original content like “The Mandalorian” and “Bridgerton.”
When we began with Netflix in the mid-2000s, the game was completely different. It was only movies, and you could choose from just about any movie in existence and receive a good old-fashioned DVD of it in the mail. Then, according to The Street’s “History of Netflix: Timeline and Facts,” instant streaming came into play in 2007. Available titles were limited and Netflix was, at the time, the only company offering the service. Life was good.
Now, due to the sheer amount of different platforms on which you can find movies and shows, staying in for a movie night or to watch a show has become the opposite of what it’s supposed to be: stressful and expensive. With the arrival of more streaming services on the market, the available content has been frequently shifted around, to the extent that you may have to purchase a subscription to a new service just to finish a show you’re a few seasons into. For example, if you’ve been casually working your way through “The Office” on Netflix, you may have realized recently that it’s no longer there. Now it’s heading over to Peacock, NBC’s new streaming service that has the rights to the show. This is just one major example of a “Netflix Casualty,” as Joe Supan calls them in his blog tracking the dispersion of titles across streaming platforms over time.
The result, oftentimes, is that consumers end up paying another $10 to $20 a month just to binge the latest season of “Wandavision” on Disney+ in 48 hours.
A devil’s advocate might argue that no one’s really making anyone get all these subscriptions, but that’s unrealistic. According to a 2020 study from the Leichtman Research Group, 55% of U.S. households subscribe to multiple streaming services, and that number has nearly tripled since 2015.
Streaming services originally took the inconvenience of TV (timing, cable packages, availability of shows, etc.) and seemed to render it obsolete, putting the power in consumers’ hands to watch what they want, when they want it, for a reasonable rate. But now, finding what you want to watch is as time-consuming as flipping through every channel. With about six different subscriptions, it’s probably just as expensive as your parents’ obscene Comcast cable package.
So it’s Friday night, and it’s time to sit down to watch that movie. But when the desperate consumer scrolls through all the apps that are putting them back $50 a month and they still can’t find “Harry Potter” three, one has to wonder if they’ll start missing the old TV.