Where Do I Go To Watch What?
A Discussion of Streaming Services
When the NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). steaming service came out it was a bold play by the company. They looked at their giant warehouse(s) of discs and said, "you know what? We could just stream all this Online instead and cut out the mail." Their decision was a shock to the whole video rental system as, up until that point the best way to get movies was to rent then from chains like Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Video. The disc-by-mail service Netflix originally provided (and which, apparently, it still does) was a shot across the bow for rental chains, but once streaming became the way to do things it wiped out the rental chains entirely. Why go to a store to watch a film when you never have to leave the house?
Netflix became a huge money maker and soon everyone wanted to have their own streaming service. At this point we have Hulu and Amazon PrimeWhile Netflix might be the largest streaming seervice right now, other major contenders have come into the game. One of the biggest, and best funded, is Amazon Prime, the streaming-service add-on packing with free delivery and all kinds of other perks Amazon gives its members. And, with the backing of its corporate parent, this streaming service very well could become the market leader., CBS All Access and Peacock, DC Universe and HBO Now and HBO MAX and HBO On and On. A number of streaming services came up (like YouTube TV and Chiller) and then bailed on the original programming scene because it was too expensive for too little benefit. And yet the services keep coming, each trying to steal away our dollars with their mix of new programs alongside old shows and movies.
In theory that's great. If there are certain networks that have the shows you really want, you can just pay for them assured you'll always be able to watch the programs you love. Really want Star TrekOriginally conceived as "Wagon Train in Space", Star Trek was released during the height of the Hollywood Western film and TV boom. While the concept CBS originally asked for had a western vibe, it was the smart, intellectual stories set in a future utopia of science and exploration that proved vital to the series' long impact on popular culture., pick up CBS; prefer Star WarsThe modern blockbuster: it's a concept so commonplace now we don't even think about the fact that before the end of the 1970s, this kind of movie -- huge spectacles, big action, massive budgets -- wasn't really made. That all changed, though, with Star Wars, a series of films that were big on spectacle (and even bigger on profits). A hero's journey set against a sci-fi backdrop, nothing like this series had ever really been done before, and then Hollywood was never the same., go for Disney+. These services always start off with the allure of whatever big show they're launching -- Star Trek: Discovery, The Mandalorian -- along with the "entire" back catalog of each of these networks. The thought of being able to get all the Paramount, or Disney, or Warner Bros. movies and shows all in one place seems so convenient.
The point of these places to lure you in so that you keep paying, knowing that when you want to watch Man of Steel it will always be available on Warner's service, HBO MAX (with the whole set of companies owned by AT&T). Except, that's not actually the case. HBO MAX has only been around a month or so and it's already losing all the Warner Bros.-developed Harry PotterFirst released as a series of books (starting in the UK before moving worldwide), the Harry Potter series gained great acclaim before even becoming a series of successful movies. Now encompassing books, films, a prequel series, and a successful two-part play, the series even now shows no end in sight. films over to Peacock, NBC-Universal's service. But then, Peacock is losing it's own chunk of movies already, and that service has only been around a week: Jurassic ParkWhile ever kid has dreams of seeing dinosaurs, Michael Crichton gave that dream a reality, at least on paper. His two Jurassic Park books spawned a movie franchise that's gone five movies strong (with no signs of slowing down), all because people love seeing dinosaurs made flesh. is moving Netflix. What the hell?
Not everything is moving around right now, and a lot of stuff is being developed for these networks. Really like all of Netflix's (truly) original programming? Well it'll be on that service forever (or until they cancel it and the show moves somewhere else, as happened with One Day At a Time). Really enjoy The Office or Friends? Well, NBC swears up and down those programs are staying at Peacock forever. You know, right up until it doesn't.
And then there are all the nascent streaming services that crop up, suck money away, and then vanish into the ether. I really enjoy all the original programming over on DC Universe, but there's doubt that service will be around for much longer. Many of it's shows are being gobbled up by other services -- Harley Quinn and Doom Patrol over to HBO MAX, Star Girl and Swamp Thing by the CW. Every few months, it seems, the expectation is to move to another service and fork over even more money, and if you like two different services that have all the shows you want, well that's just tough.
I already subscribe to five of these services -- Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, DC Universe, and CBS All Access -- and it's starting to dawn on me that I'm paying more for these services than I was for cable before I unplugged. I got sucked in because it all seems to cheap and easy and I don't want to miss out. But at the same time I'm only watching one or two things on each of these services and none of them seem to be worth the full price of what I'm paying for. I got Disney+ for The Mandalorian and the only thing I have to look forward to on the network after that is... the next season of that show. I can't remember the last time I watched one of the original programs on Hulu, and CBS only has Star Trek going for it (and I'm only paying for it at this point so I can write about those shows for this site). There's too much and yet not enough.
Oddly, the one network that actually does seem to produce enough content to keep me coming back regularly is Netflix. Every week they have something new to watch, be it a show or movie, something that hits the genre feelers and gets me all interested. Everyone else put the cart before the horse, built a network without enough to go on it regularly, but Netflix has the operation setup to chug out these shows time and again. There's something to be said for getting to the market first, I guess.
In the end I think we all have to decide what all of this is really worth. If we keep paying for more and more of these services, more and more companies will splinter entertainment more and more. I'm not saying we have to have one monolithic streaming company, but if we could pare it back to two or three that were really good, like back when I only really had to pay attention to Netflix and Hulu to get my fix, that would be lovely. It's all so much and never enough right now. Ugh.