While watching the Super Bowl with my roommates, a few commercials stood out to me. Not because of some outrageous gimmick or a celebrity cameo, but something else.
What caught my attention were the many ads for new streaming services.
While I did the math inside my head of how much all of these services costing “just $4.99 a month” could add up, I thought about just how much television and shows have changed throughout the years. Ultimately, I think the trends are making everything more expensive and more restrictive.
When I was younger, cable was still the norm. I remember the large number of channels you had to flip through to find the right one, and the arbitrary channel numbers that didn’t make any sense. It was clunky, but it offered a lot of choice.
When Netflix first came onto the scene, it was a bit of a novelty being able to watch an entire series at once rather than watching an episode week by week. To me that was just the normal schedule, having that favorite show that was anticipated on one night each week and having to wait for the next episode the following week. Watching a bunch of episodes all in a row seemed to go against that spirit. But eventually I took to it like everyone else and was amazed with all of the movies and shows Netflix had. I could just browse and find what I wanted to watch rather than wait for something to air. As Netflix became successful, it ended up creating a whole new problem.
Multiple streaming services just like it began to pop up like Hulu and Amazon Prime, and all of a sudden series and movies were going elsewhere. Now whenever you open up Netflix and look for a particular movie, it is most likely on an entirely different service. Then you’re faced with the choice of whether you’re going to pay for that other streaming service just to get that one thing you were hoping to watch. That doesn’t seem right, and now there are more services entering the mix, the problem is only going to get worse.
While I do appreciate the ability to pay only for the shows and movies that I actually want to see, I think what is missing now from the not-so-long-ago days of cable is that discovery of just finding new things randomly, movies and shows that you might not expect but just absentmindedly turned on one night. Now that everything is categorized and paywalled behind dozens of streaming services, there’s no more of that. You’re not just going to stumble across a good show, you’re going to have to pay for it to get it first.
In the end, we’re probably going to be paying almost as much as we did for cable with the added disruption of remembering dozens of logins. And if that one show we’re watching switches from one streaming service to another, then we’ll have to open up yet another account. So while the freedom to pick and choose what to watch and pay for rather than paying for a massive cable bundle can be great, all of this extra complication and restriction isn’t.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.