If you were watching the Super Bowl, then more likely than not, you saw a barrage of commercials for Paramount+, ViacomCBS’ new streaming service arriving next month. This overhaul of CBS All Access will feature a wider array of content, with dedicated hubs for Nickelodeon, MTV, and Comedy Central, in addition to the various movies produced by the studio. It is one subscription service in a long line of services created by networks since the original success of Netflix and Hulu. It is also yet another service that will charge you monthly for content you cannot find anywhere else.
Besides the effect these services have on your wallet, it has also created a time consuming expedition to locate where a certain show or movie is streaming. As more services are rolled out, their valuable media titles are removed from the established services in order to draw an audience. When NBC launched Peacock, “The Office” was taken off Netflix, much to the ire of long time fans. While newer services have cheaper options with advertisements, it is yet another expenditure to add to the growing list of expenses.
Networks are keenly aware of this, as they have introduced bundles and special deals to lessen the blow. The deal including Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month is too good to pass up, especially if you, a Hulu fan for example, share a household or login with a big sports fan. Disney+ could come in handy if you decide to finally pick up “The Mandalorian” or “WandaVision.” Of course, you need to have Netflix too! You can’t miss out on any of their original releases like “Stranger Things” or “The Queen’s Gambit.” Don’t forget about Apple TV or Amazon Prime Video either! The list goes on and on, with each service dangling a show or two above you, waiting to cash in on your desire to watch the content that matters to you.
Now, of course it makes sense that the networks would pivot to streaming, especially as more of the public opts to cut the cord with cable. But with so many options for subscription, it is frustrating for a consumer to make a decision before they are essentially just reinventing their old cable package. Swearing off streaming and opting for a basic cable package means you miss out on the shows that everyone is talking about. In a sense, the consumer is essentially being priced out of pop culture.
The result, unsurprisingly, is a piracy industry that is worth billions of dollars and consumers who are more familiar with alternate forms of obtaining their desired entertainment. I am not going to endorse piracy, but I cannot say I am shocked that people would choose to watch for free, rather than pay for a yearly subscription to a service that only has a select amount of titles that garner any interest. I like House Hunters as much as the next person, but I will not be spending $60 a year on discovery+ for the privilege of watching it.
I am not sure if streaming is a long term solution, but I expect there to be a number of consolidations between networks, essentially bringing us back to square one. In the meantime, the injection of capital into the networks has paved the way for incredible art and has also promoted work created by women and people of color. Though it has a long way to go before we can declare Hollywood to be an equal playing field, the streaming services have created many more opportunities for getting work out into the world. For now, it is probably best to just sit back on the couch and enjoy.
Ben Borrok is a School of Communication junior. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.