The problem with video streaming services
If you want to watch a movie or a TV series back in the day, you can either go to the theaters or turn on your cable TV and tune in to whatever’s showing. Or sometimes you rent or buy DVDs (Yeah, remember those days?). The concept of streaming movies and TV shows on-demand over the internet was not fully realized then. The closest thing was to torrent those files. Nowadays, video streaming services are widely available, and we have several platforms to choose from. Sometimes it’s a good thing. Sometimes it’s not.
Too many options
Right now, the most common popular video streaming service in the Philippines is Netflix. Then there’s Amazon Prime Video, HBO Go, and Apple TV+. But we also have YouTube Originals, iflix, Viu, Crunchyroll, Vivamax, and iWant. (If I missed one, let me know in the comments below… and that’s my point right there.) Add to that the other streaming services that haven’t arrived in the Philippines yet, like Disney+ and HBO Max.
While it’s good to have plenty of options, choosing which service to subscribe to can be tricky. There will be times that one subscription isn’t enough, so you end up with two or three, and navigating between those platforms can be cumbersome since you need to use their dedicated apps. If you think browsing a single platform’s vast catalog is overwhelming, imagine having multiple subscriptions.
Let’s say you did end up with multiple subscriptions, sum up the cost, and you’ll probably find end up spending more than a typical cable subscription. And you thought that terminating your cable subscription would save you money?
Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t actually want that streaming service, just a certain show.
One factor influencing a decision to subscribe to a streaming service is the catalog size and exclusives. If a certain platform houses your favorite TV show, has a good lineup of movies, or frequently releases good exclusives, then you might have found yourself a streaming service worth subscribing to. But let’s say you’re already hooked to The Witcher on Netflix, then you suddenly want to watch Loki because all of your friends are talking about it. Sadly, the only way to get into the wagon is to subscribe to Disney+.
Speaking of Disney, there was a time when Disney titles are available on Netflix, including Marvel, but it was pulled out to be exclusive on its own streaming platform. Exclusives are good news only if you’re subscribed to its platform. Sometimes it’s the subscribers that suffer when these streaming giants compete with each other.
There’s also the case of some new movies not getting an online release. On the other hand, movies like Marvel’s Black Widow got a dual release (theaters and online). However, those on Disney+ have to pay USD 30 for the Premier Access model.
Then there’s the fact that not all shows and movies will be available to you once you’ve subscribed. Many of them are restricted to certain regions due to the licensing and streaming rights. In addition, some shows can be pulled out anytime by their owners if they want to. So, even if you already spent on the most expensive subscription model, the reality is, you still can’t have it all.
This is probably a minor issue, but something that will annoy potential subscribers in the Philippines — not all streaming services are available here, as of writing. So if you want to subscribe, you’ll have to do it with a VPN. Not just any VPN will work, though, but the ones that work require a subscription, which is an additional expenditure.
It’s been known that streaming services like Netflix use an algorithm to recommend content based on your interest and past viewing activities. It’s great at first, but you will eventually get bored as you are fed with the usual genre. Also, your interests may change over time. For example, from the usual American action movies, you’re now into K-Dramas. The algorithm will soon pick it up and adjust for those genres, but it’s a slow process for those who are more adventurous and want to try something new all the time.
Not many of us put a lot of effort into learning the terms of services of a streaming platform. But sometimes, you’ll discover some part of it that will irk you. One of the most recent ones is the new rule that Netflix is testing that prevents you from sharing your account access with people that don’t live in the same household. It has good intentions, though, and minor inconvenience. But it goes to show that you’re at the mercy of the platform. Their house, their rules.
Unfortunately, there’s not much subscribers can do to change many of these issues. Changes and improvements mostly happen to gain a particular result — increase subscriber count. Some of those changes negatively affect subscribers, though. Some don’t mind it, but others get fed up and go back to torrenting.
The demand for pirated content should’ve declined now that we have on-demand streaming services that provide more accessible and legal ways to consume content. However, the more these platforms grow and multiply, the more complicated it becomes for the user. Remember, humans are hard-wired to follow the path of least resistance. Maybe that’s why sites like The Pirate Bay are still around. It’s illegal, but almost everything is there and virtually free.
But given the rise of streaming services, it’s already proven that consumers are willing to pay for legal content. The only problem is that the pathway to it is sometimes inconvenient. And often, that is more than enough to convince the user to cancel a subscription go back to torrenting.