As 2022 draws to a close, pop culture consumers enjoying their home entertainment are experiencing a fork in the road whether they are based in Canada or the United States. It is perhaps more appropriate to say that they face several forks in the road. The multitude of online streaming services for binge-watching your favorite movies or series is borderline dizzying. But that’s not the only content consumers should rely on. Rising costs, ad-supported pricing plans, and an economy navigating a whirlwind of bad news for months are forcing some people to make tough choices about what to watch or not to watch. So much so that one can be forgiven for picking up a cheap Blu-ray player and just watching physical media.
Is the return to physical media a realistic choice? It depends on how many of those old discs one has kept or how much one is willing to spend over $30 for a single 4K disc if one upgrades to Ultra HD. Is the world today better or worse than when physical media dominated?
Back to MY day…
This article won’t bore readers to death with a romantic take on yesteryear when Blockbuster was all the rage. There are enough podcasts, YouTube channels, pop culture articles, and people on social media doing just that. Fair enough.
There is merit in recalling how things used to be from a more holistic approach. When you wanted to consume a movie or TV series, you either rented it or, probably in the case of a lot of people who read it (as moviegoers and otherwise), you bought said entertainment on disc. Further still, there were VHS or video tapes.
It really was a simpler time. Granted, there were “format wars” that complicated things for brief periods. Some may remember the days when VHS and Betamax were engaged in a market war. A few decades later, it was between Blu-ray and HD-DVD in a short-lived head-to-head.
The point here is that if one wanted to own a copy of star warsWhere The Godfather, they simply bought the record. That was it. No one was spared watching George Lucas’ classic space opera if it didn’t shell out $11.99 a month.
Spread the dream
The 2010s saw a big shift from consuming movies and shows on discs to streaming them from online media services. Even Netflix, best known today as a streaming service, at one point sent out DVDs to customers (they still are, if anyone wants to know). Today, of course, they’re a streaming empire that not only licenses lots of content from other studios, but produces an unfathomable amount of its own original content.
When streaming grew in popularity and became more mainstream, it was like a dream. No more piling DVD cases on the shelf, many of which have started gathering dust. Streaming was so easy. Simply sign up, pay a monthly or annual fee, and enjoy all the content on the platform with just one click.
A decade ago, there was a lot of money to be made when studios leased their own product to companies like Netflix. But as the 2010s approached the 2020s, things started to change. For one thing, as mentioned earlier, Netflix has started making its own movies and shows. But more important for our purposes here is that other players entered the proverbial ring. Some of them, like Disney, Amazon and Apple, wanted to create their own platforms to diversify their capital and income. Others, like HBOMAX (Crave in Canada), Paramount+, and Peacock (NBC-Universal not available in Canada) were studios that were tired of renting out their stuff to other companies. They wanted to bring their creations home, so to speak, and “enter” into the delights of streaming revenue. After all, the numbers don’t lie.
Too much of a good thing?
The article acknowledges that the previous sections were incredibly simple and dynamic explanations of how the cultural consumption landscape got to where it is today. That said, consider what the market will look like in 2022.
One can subscribe to Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, HBOMAX/Crave, Paramount+, Discovery+, Shudder for horror hounds, Apple TV+, and Criterion Channel for arthouse fans. If one lives in the US, add Hulu and Peacock to that. None of these include streaming versions of TV channels or sports.
According to the Cloud Awards article linked above, the percentage of US households that have at least one streaming service subscription (86%) is higher than those with a paid TV subscription (67%). It’s a remarkable statistic but backed up by the upward trend in streaming’s popularity over the past decade, as well as its multiplicity.
There is a catch, however. Remember the VHS, DVD and Blu-ray eras. We bought a movie (or rented it), and that was the end of the story. These days, a Trekkie needs Paramount+, an MCU follower needs Disney+, the Bergman maniac needs Criterion Channel and Dahmer “fans” must subscribe to Netflix. It’s simple, but it’s not. Of course, sign up, pay a monthly fee and click “play”. But how many of these services can you subscribe to?
complicate things too much
It’s like cable TV again. Different channels compete for audience attention span and hard-earned cash. There has been an evolution from small, relatively bulky DVD cases and discs that can break and scratch to the simplicity of streaming. This, in turn, has turned into a complicated and increasingly expensive market.
Tilt Magazine isn’t the place to discuss the national or global economy, but the news these days isn’t good. Wallets are tight. Food costs more. Gas is more expensive. Guess what else is about to cost more: streaming services.
Several of the major services recently announced price increases with caveats. As of this writing, competitors such as Netflix, Disney+, and Paramount+ have or will soon begin implementing ad-supported plans that cost less per month and ad-free plans that cost more per month. . Remember the comment about it sounding like cable TV again? Want to watch Dahmer with commercial breaks?
Canadians spent an average of $52.58 per month on cable TV in 2017. In 2022, if a Canadian subscribes to all major streaming platforms, ad-free and with the maximum number of screens allowed. It would cost $103.17 per month.
Netflix without ads and 4 screens: $20.99
First video: $8.25
Disney+: $11.99 (ad-supported version doesn’t go live in Canada until 2023)
Crave (Canadian HBOMAX): $19.99
Paramount+ ad-free: $9.99
Apple TV+: $8.99
Criterion string: $10.99
= $103.17 per month.
Not everyone is willing to pay that. Nowadays not everyone is box. There is even no question that these services do not provide a plethora of content. They certainly do, largely very well. However, certain economic realities make the situation difficult to manage, for both content producers and content consumers.
Streaming Births Nostalgia
Netflix loses subscribers, Disney misses profit targets, Warner Bros. Discovery is in stingy mode given its situation, etc. entertainment. Solutions will surely be found. They always are. As the streaming wasteland gets wilder with each passing year, it brings to mind those DVDs and Blu-rays. So simple. Just turn on the machine, insert the disc and hit play on the menu screen…