Streaming has seemingly become the next big thing in entertainment. The success of Netflix has led to almost every entertainment company jumping on the gravy train and establishing their own services. It has gotten to the point that many believe streaming to be the next evolution of entertainment from regular movie theaters and television. However, in retrospect, the results have been less than savory. Sure, the prospect of having hundreds of movies and tv shows available on a single service is enticing, but the appeal feels like it has dried up as of late. With streaming being in an awkward phase, I feel that something else has become a potential alternative to help curb the issues of the new medium: physical media.
So, to start, what problems have popped up with streaming? Well, it all boils down to the fact that there are just too many services on the market right now. One of the benefits of streaming at the start was that a service or two consolidated so much content onto a few platforms. Netflix, in particular, provided a lot under one umbrella from multiple studios. Even when films and shows left the platform, they would still bring on a rotating set of content that could satisfyingly fill what was left. However, with almost every entertainment company starting its own service, what was once readily available with a few services is now divided behind multiple paywalls. This has resulted in the streaming market resembling cable, where multiple payments are needed to access the majority of viewing options as opposed to the option of paying less for more which enticed the public at first. Also, because of the new services, titles that used to be available on places like Netflix consistently, such as The Office, have been removed due to certain rights ending or a rights holder starting their own service. In spite of the initial idea of services being a one-stop destination for content, the aspects of rights and money result in services taking things off quickly or certain titles hopping from one platform to another. With copyright and ownership resulting in the aforementioned division of content, streaming services now offer less overall, and the convenience of a diverse pool of stuff to watch has dissipated into simply what a studio owns or is willing to pay for.
With old content being unreliable in availability, this results in services needing to rely on their original content to entice people. After all, if a service doesn’t have older content anymore, why not look into what they make specifically for its streaming platform? However, even that prospect has become problematic. A major issue has been that even if an original show you like is on a streaming platform, there is no guarantee that it will continue in spite of its popularity. Netflix is the worst offender in this regard, as they have a habit of canceling so many shows before they have a chance to get their footing due to how they perceive viewership and popularity. Other situations include the removal of content completely if a company sees an opportunity to cut costs through rights payments or even taking off content exclusive to the service and using it for a tax write-off. Plus, with the need to keep the service profitable, so many companies have their original content come out cheap and half-baked. Even when there’s effort or when there is a show that sticks around, over-saturation becomes a problem, such as with the MCU shows on Disney+. All of this has resulted in streaming feeling messy. While services do provide a lot, it feels not as concise as it was before and more restrictive in general.
So, where does physical media play in all of this? After all, I know that many people probably view DVDs and such as in the past, with how many touted streaming as the next evolution of home entertainment. However, I do feel that they are worth looking back at and that they provide a few advantages that streaming can’t offer. I do not suggest abandoning streaming entirely. It has become a huge deal for a reason due to some of its convenience, and for every cheap streaming-only film or show, there is something worthwhile that could only be produced due to the opportunity of the platform. However, with the recent issues that have come up with companies trying to go all in with streaming, I feel that physical media does have a place when it comes to certain situations.
For example, with how unstable the availability of many titles is, I feel that if you can’t find something that you really want to watch on a service or if it’s on one you don’t want to pay for, why not find it for cheap at a video store or online. At certain stores that I’ve been to, I’ve been able to find seasons of older shows that cost around the same as a month’s worth of subscription for a single service. You do need to be thoughtful about where you go through to find the right prices rather than going to chain stores. I personally feel great finding something I like or want at a good price.
The reason why this is beneficial is the longevity of the purchase. A DVD or other piece of physical media is your copy and is a single payment. The subscription model was enticing when presented, but given that there is no guarantee that content on a service will stay, I feel that finding the right price for a physical copy of something you really want but can’t find on a service makes things a bit easier. It also serves as a reminder that even with innovation, sometimes older things have their advantages. Will you find exactly what you want out there? Not always, but it’s worth a shot. Why bother waiting for a movie or show you like to appear on a service when it’s likely going to move around due to rights issues? There’s also the possibility that you don’t want to pay for a service since you feel it doesn’t offer enough but still has a few things you really want to watch consistently. Well, just get physical copies of the few things that the service would normally provide for a single purchase. Streaming should be approached smartly. If a service has a lot that you want, then subscribe to it, but be tactful about what you subscribe to.
Personally, I honestly find myself watching DVDs that I bought years ago and buying new ones once in a while rather than binging the newest season of a popular show or browsing one of the many streaming services for a potential option for the evening. At the end of the day, though, it’s not wrong to prefer these services. I am simply offering an alternative to the frustrations with the current landscape. I never really got into it as much as others, so I guess I won’t speak for everyone. However, I do think there are tangible benefits of keeping physical media around that these new services simply can’t. I still recommend taking advantage of streaming, but only the ones you really want or need. The problem with the current ecosystem is that so many services have been presented that have their own libraries. So, choose which few you would prefer. If a service only has a few things you really want to watch, but don’t want to pay for multiple services, then I would recommend looking at physical options.