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It’s Time to Take an Honest Look at Streaming Services

Long-gestating issues in Hollywood are coming to a head as of late.
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Madelyn Foulger
(Design by Madelyn Foulger | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Here’s a familiar scene: two friends are chatting about the shows they watch in their spare time. One friend is watching “Ahsoka” and “Severance,” the other is watching “Winning Time” and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.” Both want to watch “One Piece” but also “The Office” in between new episodes of “Only Murders in the Building” and “Gen V.” Unfortunately, they realize that each of these shows exists on entirely separate streaming platforms.

A 2023 study from CordCutting found that a hefty 93% of US adults, or 240.2 million people, have access to streaming services. The average singular adult personally subscribes to at least four services and spends an average of $50 a month on them. The study also found that the largest platforms are Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Disney+, Max, Peacock, Paramount+ and Apple TV+ respectively. Every month, these streaming giants duke it out to get to the bottom of consumer wallets.

Long-gestating issues in Hollywood are coming to a head as of late. From the joint WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, less and less disposable income in the pockets of consumers and an explosion of new content this past decade, what are the costs of the streaming wars?

A Modern Pandora’s Box

The advent of streaming has put tangible good into the world. Streaming has allowed for greater diversity and accessibility both in front of and behind the camera. There is a greater variety of stories, themes and subject material that would not be possible on network television. These platforms also allow the consumer to watch decade’s worth of preexisting content at the touch of a button.

In the long run, is this a sustainable venture? There certainly is no longer a world without streaming now that it’s been let out of the box.

The proliferation of streaming services has led to an explosion of content that no one has time to watch or pay for. High-budget projects will be dumped out on one weekend to be binge-watched. They stir up conversation on social media or deliver impressive viewership figures, yet leave no lasting impression on the cultural zeitgeist. How can they, when the next big thing just dropped on a different platform?

Recent box office trends are a clear indicator that a substantial portion of consumers are willing to wait for newly released movies to go to video on demand or even to subscription video on demand rather than venture out to a theater. This means the death of the mid-range movie and a heavier focus on blockbusters. This led to a slew of box office bombs this year alone, a phenomenon labeled the death of cinema.

A Broken Business Model

No one in Hollywood, outside of the executives, is consistently employed. This is why residual payments from past projects are crucial to making a living in Tinsel Town for actors, writers and crew members. However, with streaming cutting out broadcast television and the theatrical, physical and digital marketplaces with an intentionally lowered residual payment scale, the folks who keep Hollywood running are hurting.

Streaming is a business that bleeds money. That’s why the major studios continue to raise prices, push ad-tier subscriptions for supplementary revenue, crack down on password sharing and seek to replace writers and actors with AI. With the post-pandemic consumer bubble about to burst, tactics to squeeze more money out of consumers will only increase.

All the major streamers have enacted these business behaviors. To name them all would transform this piece from a singular article to an entire book series. But the major studios know without a doubt that the streaming bubble is about to burst.

A Brighter Future

After a 146-day strike, the WGA was able to secure a “historic” deal with the AMPTP — one that offers greater residuals based on viewership data, protections from AI and an expanded writer’s room role and capacity. With the SAG-AFTRA strike possibly coming to a similarly amicable ending soon, Hollywood can get back up and running with a new lease on life.

As mentioned before, streaming services are here to stay. The launch of the Streaming Innovation Alliance has distressingly set it in stone. The new political lobbying group will “advocate for federal and state policies that build on the strong, competitive, and pro-consumer market for streaming video.”

It’s called “show business” for a reason. Consumers vote with their wallets. If the message that there are too many streaming services and that they are too expensive is ever going to be sent to the major studios, it will be in a manner that hits their bottom line. 

 

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@apm_andre

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About the Contributors
Andre Montoya, Arts Writer
Andre Montoya is a senior at the University of Utah double majoring in English and communications with an emphasis in journalism. He began writing for the Arts Desk at the Daily Utah Chronicle in Fall 2022. Previously, he has written for the West View Media and Voices of Utah, formerly run by now retired U professor Dr. Kim Mangun. He can often be found around campus glued to his laptop working on assignments or at the Student Life Center exercising. In his free time, he enjoys reading novels, photography, binge-watching shows and movies, or spending time with friends.
Madelyn Foulger, Social Media Manager, Design Contributer
Madelyn started at the Chronicle in 2022 as a social media contributor and designer before becoming Social Media Manager in May 2023. She's majoring in film and media arts with a minor in human rights and resources. Madelyn enjoys various creative pursuits, including writing, illustration, design, film, and photography.

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