VALDEZ: Streaming wars will soon change how viewers consume media

Streaming is the future.

You know it. I know it. We all know it. The sooner everyone accepts it, the better. I promise you that no streaming company is paying me to say this. I am just here to say the sobering truth. The convenience of binge-watching in bed has replaced the classic experience of the movie theater.

In my digital storytelling class, we had a discussion about how theaters will most likely become obsolete in the future. Sure, this year’s “Avengers: Endgame” became the highest-grossing movie of all time at the box office, but that is an exception. 

Outside of the occasional blockbuster, who is going to the theater as their primary source of movie-watching nowadays? Why go pay $15 for one movie ticket, not even including the overpriced snacks, when you can pay the same amount to watch countless of your favorite movies and shows from the comfort of your home?

“Domestic theaters are down more than 7%, or about $430 million, compared to 2018,” according to IndieWire. Meanwhile, streaming is only getting bigger. Apple, as its latest step in its quest toward world domination, have announced that its Apple Plus streaming service is coming this fall. Disney, Warner Bros and Universal Pictures will soon follow suit. 

Netflix, the current streaming king, has responded to this news by beefing up its original content. Honestly, I have been impressed with how they have been covering all bases. "Dave Chappelle: Sticks & Stones” has sent shockwaves throughout the internet, with both good and bad reviews aplenty. Either way, as Chappelle himself said: “You still clicked on my face.” 

The third season of “Stranger Things,” a big hit among the young adult demographic, had 40.7 million viewers watching its opening weekend. Netflix recently released the second season of “Mindhunter,” a more mature crime show directed by award-winning producer David Fincher. 

Speaking of award-winning directors, Netflix funded the production of Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which will exclusively be available on the platform on Nov. 27, after a short theatrical run. It did the same thing with Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” last year, and it won best picture at the Oscars. Whether you want a binge-worthy show, an enjoyable stand-up or a blockbuster mainstream movie, Netflix has it. 

What does all of this mean? Well, with Netflix only getting stronger, and the aforementioned companies soon to be joining the streaming party, where is the room for theaters to be successful? Keep in mind that I have not even mentioned Hulu, HBO Now and several other sites that have also been doing well. There is simply too much competition, with too much exclusive content coming out, for theaters to be able to sustain themselves long-term. 

This brings us to the ultimate question: How will the consumer adjust to the streaming takeover? Are we really going to end up paying for all of these individual sites? For example, “Friends” will be taken off Netflix next year and be transferred to WarnerMedia’s incoming streaming service. “The Office” will also transfer from Netflix to NBC’s streaming service in 2021. Both of these shows are widely popular, with a significant fanbase. 

Will those fans buy subscriptions for those sites, just to watch those shows? Will the current theater companies, like AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas, pool together and make their own online service for new movies? Will pirating and illegal downloading become even more prevalent than it already is?

There will not be enough demand to sustain 20 or more streaming services in the end. If I had to guess, there will eventually be 2 to 3 major services that will monopolize the business. Disney and Apple will probably buy everyone out in the end. 

Why do I say that? Disney already owns Hulu, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, ABC and several other companies. Apple, on the other hand, has been recognized by CEOWORLD magazine as the highest-performing company of 2019, with a market value of $961 billion. I do not foresee anything slowing these two giants down. Eventually, the biggest fish are going to eat the smaller ones. 

This will cause us to rely on these absurdly gigantic companies for the majority of our on-screen entertainment. If they do not own our souls by then, they will definitely own our favorite shows and movies. 

Is this all a result of our generation’s laziness to leave our house? Perhaps. But, I do know this: The streaming wars will radically change how we consume entertainment, and soon. Get ready.

Joshua Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies and double-minoring in creative writing and cinema studies. His column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Fridays.


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