How Streaming Services Will Change the Future of Movies
Less than twenty years ago, the majority of the general public consumed entertainment through satellite television, where certain shows played at certain times with ads played periodically both throughout the shows and between them. As internet speeds became faster and the internet itself more advanced and accessible, more and more people started streaming and downloading their favorite shows and movies online illegally. It was easy to see the appeal of watching something for free, but what drew more people towards this form of consumption was the convenience of watching what you wanted when you wanted to, without the hassle of having to leave your home and visit a physical retail store to buy a CD or DVD of it. Unfortunately, film studios resisted the shift to online media consumption, which made content piracy even more popular. Eventually, however, the gap in the market was too clear to ignore, and a paid, legal, ad-free streaming platform inevitably formed in Netflix. Netflix combined the convenience of accessing content from your own home with the convenience of protecting your devices’ security from being compromised by pirating, and charged a small monthly fee in return. With Netflix’s massive success, other companies caught on and launched their own streaming services with exclusive content. Because these streaming services contained their respective studios’ properties, and because many of them had at least a few widely popular ones, the level of competition in this market was weak, and there was not a significant need to undercut the opposition.
From the consumer’s standpoint, the way they consumed media changed for the better; if they wanted to watch something, they could pay the subscription fee for the streaming service that had it and watch it without ads, whenever they wanted. However, as more streaming services come about, and as they slowly start raising their monthly fees, consumers might no longer be interested in paying for these services, at least not for all of them at once. Streaming services are now facing a problem in which not only are they losing subscribers, but they are also finding that users are subscribing to their platform for just a single month at a time, and are accessing all of their content throughout just that one month. In response, studios have started and will continue implementing cheaper or even free versions of their streaming platforms that contain ads or restricted access. Moreover, studios are combining the different streaming services that they own and are offering them to consumers as bundles that are cheaper than each one individually. In the long run, I do not believe that this is a sustainable format for media consumption. If this trend continues, people will be motivated to revert to piracy or to continue subscribing to services for short periods and binging through all of their content, both of which are not good for the studios. One potential option is that studios will begin bundling up their streaming services to the extent that it resembles an online version of cable television, but I do not think that this would be as financially beneficial to the studios, just as we have seen in the past. Instead, I predict that studios will increase their rate of producing media to maintain their consumer base and justify their raised prices.
A consequence of studios continuously pumping out new shows and movies straight to streaming, which is also a fear that has plagued movie theaters for some time, is that people will no longer want to go to the cinema to watch a movie. I predict that this will be true, but with a caveat: the movie-going experience, in the sense of watching a two-hour movie at the theater will die. Movies of this length will likely be sent directly to the studios’ respective streaming services. However, movie theaters will persist, but studios will use them to run high-budget, blockbuster movies that are around four hours long and would benefit from aspects of the theater experience such as the crowd, audio, or visuals. In short, I believe that four-hour movies will become the new norm, with lower-budget, two-hour movies going straight to streaming services, and that this is a direct consequence of the emergence of streaming services, as well as studios wanting to keep customers subscribed to their online streaming services for longer periods of time.