The rise of streaming services has lead to, or at least coincided with, sharp declines in the sales of physical media. DVDs and Blu-rays aren’t flying off shelves as people opt for whatever Netflix, Amazon or others have to offer. Watching there carries no incremental cost, so why not?
The number of those streaming services is exploding recently, with seemingly every media company having launched or planning to launch their own OTT subscription offering. Disney announced such plans a few months ago and recently confirmed the movies it owns in the Star Wars and Marvel universes, movies it previously licensed elsewhere, would be exclusive to their own service come 2019.
At some point I have to believe there’s going to be a push back against all this insanity. People have been cutting cable for the last several years because they realized those packages were filled with chaff, channels and content they were paying for but had no interest in and would never consume. They only wanted to pay for what interests them.
Now the explosion of brand-specific OTT services seems to be offering simply a variation on that model. In order to get all the shows and movies you want you’ll need to subscribe to Netflix, Amazon, CBS, Disney and three others. But you might be doing so just for one or two shows on each service, or a particular subset of movies. The majority of the content may never be watched because your time is finite and you don’t have the luxury of exploring the archives of any one in particular. And it’s going to cost you far more in cumulative monthly fees than cable did.
So what’s the one alternative left for those who want to exercise some control over their media spending? Physical or downloaded media. With actual discs, you make the intentional decision that X is worth your money while Y sitting right next to it on the shelf is not. Yeah, that might be relatively expensive, but at least this way you aren’t also paying for thousands of movies and shows you’ll never watch.
If not purchasing, at least borrowing could benefit from marketplace frustration over an endless array of streaming subscriptions to purchase. A recent study showed young adults are visiting libraries at a rate higher than previous generations, part of the younger demographic’s shift away from ownership on a number of fronts. Since many libraries have decent video selections to choose from, it’s easy to see this being an option as well, assuming people are willing to wait a little while for a title to become available.
There *will* be a breaking point in the streaming wars, a moment where the public has had enough with being forced in a direction chosen by giant media companies and not their own preferences. The reemergence of physical or downloaded media is one way the audience could exercise a bit more control over their entertainment spending.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.