Your Netflix wish isn’t going to happen
"Ah! There are too many options!"
When it comes to subscription streaming services, that's a common refrain heard around the traps.
"When are we going to get the Spotify of streaming already?" is the usual follow-up question.
Consumers' eyes bulge at the sheer number of streaming services, so they're begging for one catch-all platform through which they can get everything they want and for a price that's agreeable to them.
That's not going to happen. There probably will be some form of consolidation a few years down the line, but there's never going to be that wished-for Spotify of TV and movies streaming, and Netflix will never have everything you want to watch.
With the launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+ in the final quarter of this year, the number of subscription streaming services, or SVOD (subscription video on demand) for brevity's sake, in Australia now sits at 13, and I'm probably missing one or two of the more obscure ones.
A baker's dozen different companies you could be paying a monthly fee to for streaming.
Let's count them down, shall we?
There's the behemoth, Netflix. The Aussie disrupter, Stan. The legacy entertainment company, Foxtel Now, plus its sports service Kayo. The well-resourced new kid, Disney+.
There are the tech companies that are better known for selling other things getting in on the game, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video. There's the streamer that wants you to pay if you want more than ad-funded make-up tutorials, YouTube Premium.
There's the one every forgets exists, 10 All Access.
And then there are the niche products - Hayu for reality TV aficionados, Acorn TV for Anglophiles and Docplay and iWonder for documentary lovers.
Thirteen different services. If you were particularly sweet on time, money and entertainment, you could sign up for all of them (at a basic level) at a cost of $148.90 per month, which is about $10 more than the most premium Foxtel package.
At that price, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's too steep. But no one says you have to have all 13 SVOD services, and certainly not at once.
Some frugal consumers are paying for one or two services (eg. Netflix and Disney+) for two or three months, watching what they want from those libraries and then pausing those subscriptions and switching over to one or two others (Stan and Amazon Prime).
More than 14.5 million Australians now have access to some form of SVOD or pay TV, up from 5.2 million in March 2015, the month Netflix launched here, according to Roy Morgan figures.
It's an extraordinary growth story for less than five years.
The same Roy Morgan data suggests millions of Australians are willing to pay for multiple services at the same time, including 3.1 million people who have access to both Netflix and Stan.
That doesn't mean people are willing to pay for 13 - nor would they, unless they're a combination of cricket nut, Anglophile, Made in Chelsea devotee, The Twilight Zone diehard and Reese Witherspoon fan.
The Spotify for streaming fantasy is not financially viable
For one thing, movies and TV shows generally cost more to make than music albums, as much as $US150 million a season for something like Apple TV+'s Morning Wars, or $US350 million for Avengers: Endgame.
And despite revenue in the billions, Netflix barely ekes out a profit when it does, plunging all that money back into new shows and movies, such as Martin Scorsese's The Irishman, for which it paid a reported $US140 million.
A Taylor Swift album, the Avengers equivalent of music, might cost a few million to make but nowhere near $US350 million.
The initial investment from studios and streamers for screen content is exponentially higher than that of music.
When services like Spotify were formed, the music industry was facing an existential threat - film and TV are not. And even then, there is much commentary around how underpaid music artists are by the likes of digital streaming platforms - maybe not Tay Tay but certainly independent artists.
Backed by massive entertainment or tech conglomerates such as Disney, Google, Netflix or Comcast, it's not in the financial interest of any of these streaming companies to band together, pool together all their expensive content and sell it onto consumers for $20 per household.
That would mean taking a massive loss on their big investments - and these companies are not charities here to entertain you out of the goodness of their hearts.
There may very well be some kind of platform or payment system in which you could bundle a slew of services together and just pay one bill - in the US you can already subscribe to different SVODs through Apple or Amazon, for example - but that bill is going to cost a lot more than $20 a month.
A punter once commented under a streaming story that there should be a modern-day equivalent of Video Ezy, where they could walk into one place and find everything they want - and because there isn't, then they're entitled to pirate what they want.
Attitudes like that conveniently forget that every item they wanted at Video Ezy came at an individual cost. And that it was usually "out" anyway.
Actually, there is something like Video Ezy - it's called the internet. Or JB Hi-Fi, where in the early days of DVD box sets, a single season of something like The West Wing would cost $160.
Three SVODs - Netflix, Stan and Disney+ - could cost you as little as $29 a month or the same price as three new releases and two weeklies at Video Ezy. For $29 a month, you're getting a lot more than five movies.
Those facts are easily brushed aside by stubborn and recalcitrant agitators who argue they're now entitled to pirate content because they have to pay several different providers, even though the reasons pirates had 10 or 15 years ago (mostly questions of availability) are now moot.
Maybe the cost of watching what you want seems to be spiralling, but the choices now are beyond compare with even five years ago. Almost every new English-language series made in the world is legally available in Australia either instantly or very soon after.
And there are hundreds of shows across scores of genres that satiate whatever TV predilection you have. No one has the time to watch even 9 per cent of it.
If you do find the cost of multiple services too much, there are many free options available to supplement one or two paid services - SBS On Demand and ABC iview have great shows and movies, or you could ask your council library if they pay a licensing fee for Kanopy (a free streaming service with a catalogue of 30,000 titles that is tied to library memberships).
So stop wishing for that Spotify for streaming fantasy or using it as an excuse to pirate and embrace the new normal.
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