By now everyone should be familiar with the plethora of video streaming services that are available. Most recently Disney+ launched on Nov. 12 following in the footsteps of companies like Amazon, HBO and Netflix. Since the launch of Netflix, the streaming service marketplace has only gone downhill with its proliferation, and now practices within the industry are even more offensive than those of the not-so-long forgotten cable companies.
In 2010, Netflix opened the doors for video streaming services after starting as a by mail DVD rental service. This escalation of convenience took the public by storm, and that same year Hulu launched their paid service and created competition to Netflix. That competition was short lived though, because the parent company of Hulu, The Walt Disney Corporation, did not like seeing their intellectual properties on another platform.
Fast forward nine years and there is a streaming platform for every production company, meaning each service hosts only their own properties. This has all but eliminated competition between streaming services. If you want to watch anything from Disney, National Geographic or Pixar, you subscribe to Disney +. There is no choice.
Why would Disney care about the user interface, price or special features of Netflix? Theoretically their demographics have no overlap. The people who want to watch Disney movies will pay for Disney+, no matter how low quality and expensive of a service it is.
The lack of competition has been furthered through the services themselves creating content. Netflix Originals have become a large part of Netflix’s catalog since they lost the rights to some of their most valuable shows. There are Hulu Originals, Amazon Originals, and even Disney+ originals.
Streaming services are no longer a replacement for cable. They function in a bubble where competition does not exist, and companies are free to hike up prices and remove content. The majority of video content on the internet is now an oligopoly, and it is scary to think of where it could lead.
Anyone with a wide range of television or movie interests is asked to pay multiple different monthly rates in order to keep up, and oftentimes people pay for an entire service when they only want to watch one show.
In the coming months even more companies are dipping their toes into the streaming industry. Networks like NBC, who’s main demographics are adults over 30, have decided they want a streaming service.
The heightened popularity of video streaming services has bled over into video games. Now Google, Sony and Microsoft are stepping into the ring, offering platforms to stream video games over the internet.
But what about those without high speed internet? Rural areas are still struggling to access high speed internet, and the advent of streaming services only serves to alienate them.
The internet has enabled convenience on a level never thought possible before, but that allows companies to charge us in ways never thought possible. Maybe someday everyone will have a fiber optic internet connection and streaming services will completely overtake cable, but in my opinion, that day will be a step back for the world of entertainment.