By Matt Kyle | Associate Editor
Online streaming has been the dominant way people have consumed media for the past few years. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBOMax and many other platforms regularly retain millions of subscribers and are successful enough to produce their own original series instead of hosting existing cable shows.
I’m not going to lie about the many benefits of streaming; I subscribe to all of the services I just listed and use them all the time to find new shows and binge on existing favorites. Streaming has revolutionized the way we consume media, and while it’s very user-friendly for subscribers, streaming can negatively impact creators and produce a trend that could lead to negative results.
Watch recent events from Warner Bros Discovery. To explain everything quickly, Warner Bros. merged with Discovery last year, and new CEO David Zaslav aims to save as much money as possible. As part of this quest, Warner Bros. Discovery has canceled several upcoming and nearly completed films to claim them as tax deductions to recoup production costs, meaning no one will ever be able to watch “Batgirl” or “SCOOB: Holiday Haunt.” “.
Then, HBOMax pulled 36 titles from the service to avoid having to pay residuals to the creators of the shows, which included 20 original titles only available on HBOMax. In the case of “Infinity Train,” the soundtrack was also pulled from Spotify, and all mentions of the show were removed from Cartoon Network’s social media channels.
While most of the shows pulled were due to low ratings, several of the shows received critical acclaim and had dedicated fanbases. One of the shows — “Close Enough,” from “Regular Show” creator JQ Quintel — saw a new season release in April, and now it’s been canceled and almost completely wiped from the internet.
Imagine pouring your heart and soul into a project only to have it canceled and unceremoniously removed from the internet. This is not only horrible for creators, but also has bad implications for the future of entertainment media.
The only way to currently watch “Close Enough” and “Infinity Train” is to purchase digital episodes and seasons online. There are no DVDs or physical media of the shows. Although they are still available for purchase or rental online, there is no guarantee that Amazon and Youtube will host them forever, and they may no longer be available for purchase at some point in the future.
As streaming has increased, ownership of physical media such as DVDs, Blu-Rays, CDs, and books has declined. As a child, I remember having shelves upon shelves of DVDs, CDs and books, and now everything has been sold out, and I watch everything through paid online services.
Again, I think streaming is super convenient, and it’s the best option for listening to music. I believe it’s the best way to find new shows, and I’m a big fan of binge-watching.
But these services have taken media ownership away from consumers. While popular streaming originals like “Stranger Things” are available in physical formats, what guarantees are there that shows with lower viewership will be available to fans, and how do creators know that their shows will not be removed and erased from existence without notice?
As the world moves towards the metaverse and all-digital, we need to remember the importance of preserving physical media. As long as you have electricity and a TV, a DVD and DVD player will still work. You can buy your favorite shows and movies and watch them whenever you want.