Households and their relationship with consuming film and media (for the most part) have been pretty simple. We want something that is convenient. At one point that was heading to your local theater, at another it was waiting for cable to cast it, seceding that was heading to your nearest Blockbuster, or anything similar, and now it’s binge watching Netflix...or is it?
In 2018 a total of 300 billion visits to online piracy sites were counted. More than ⅓ of that number was counted towards TV activity, making up 106.9 billion visits. There’s been speculation about why this is coming about, for awhile piracy was going DOWN due to Netflix. What’s with the change? To answer that question some political commentators have taken a look back at the film industry and how it developed and change over time. Starting with Paramount vs The United States.
This case concerned movie studios (ie. Paramount) owning their own theaters and in turn holding exclusivity rights on their movies. To clarify, at this point in time a movie studio, like Disney for example, could own their own movie theaters that were the only place you could watch Disney’s movies. With a system like this studios had an oligopoly, they not only owned and gained the profits of their movies, but they owned and gained the profits from their theaters. In turn a form of vertical integration was formed. It was essentially a monopoly. The studio earned all of the profits from everything, rather than it being distributed through different theaters. The supreme court ruled that this was in violation of the United State’s competition law, that exists to “maintain market competition”. And justifiably so. Instead of creating a market where individual theaters had to innovate and create a space that enticed consumers based solely on those attributes, they could rely on the fact that they were the only place consumers could go to watch a specific movie and not do anything to promote competition.
Which leads us to the streaming problem. Netflix used to be the sole proprietor of the streaming movement. Which made it so simple. Everything there was to stream, was on Netflix. It was the newest innovation of entertainment and it was simple. But then as time went on more “competitors” joined this “market”. And you’ll see a very uncanny resemblance with what is happening now to what happened with Paramount vs The United States. Studios and exclusivity rights. HBO is the best example in this situation. It’s a streaming service that holds a monopoly on its Game of Thrones franchise, and THAT is the single marketable aspect of the service. There’s nothing unique about the service except that you can’t watch GOT on Netflix. With exclusivity rights those who do subscribe to streaming services don’t just subscribe to one service based on the quality of said service, they stream from different platforms to watch different movies.
This means there is no competition to motivate streaming services to actually better their quality and offer new innovations to their users. So as more studios like Disney for example, create their own streaming services and steal back their exclusivity rights on a franchise, it just creates MORE services that people have to pay for with LESS to offer.
And that’s where piracy pops in. Piracy is simple, you order ONE Amazon Fire Stick, watch a tutorial on Youtube and you’re set. You can watch virtually anything. There’s no jumping through service to service looking for that one show you want to watch. Some find it upsetting that such an endless amount of potential the internet can provide is being wasted because the only thing these services care about is their roster. No one wants to pay $5 to $10 for multiple streaming services. It’s inconvenient. And as we mentioned before, consumers only want the opposite. Convenience.