The obscene growth associated with streaming can’t be overestimated.
But can it continue?
Most give Covid-19 credit for pushing the world’s largest, legacy entertainment giants – – The Walt Disney Company
With two vaccines approved and others on the way, some see the streaming explosion as similar to the Internet-based “app” business boom of the late 1990’s, exciting but likely short-lived.
In other words, some experts believe that once we’re able to enjoy old-fashioned entertainment options again like going to the cinema, streaming subscriptions are bound to slow down and the “go go” streaming days will dissipate, the way MySpace vanished and how VHS machines and DVDs have become objects better suited for The Smithsonian than someone’s home theater. Experts believe this streaming thing we’re experiencing is a blip, a flash in the pan, a shiny object that will likely be tossed out sooner than you can say “eight track tape.”
Anyone who believes streaming is a short-lived fad hasn’t been watching broader entertainment trends.
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Here are 5 reasons why big-time streaming will not only continue, but could eliminate other entertainment sectors, in its wake:
1. The Movie Business As We Once Knew It, Is Over
Independent movie chains – – AMC, Cineplex and Cineworld – – are likely to either go out of business, partner with major entertainment studios or get bought out entirely by those same studios, resulting in movie houses becoming “studio-centric.” You and your family will go to a Disney Movie Theater, where new releases will play alongside older Disney titles, animated classics and films that the studio believes should stay at the cinema for months, instead of the weeks they were once relegated to. Going to the cinema will become a more expensive, “nice to have” affair, as it will function as a “brand extension” of the title that you can easily see on the same day/date the film is released at the cinema, at home, via your streaming service. Before the pandemic, most Americans were seeing a movie at the cineplex between 3-5 times a year. We can safely assume that post the pandemic that number might go down to 1 or 2 visits. Why go out when consumers can see brand new content, safe and less expensively, at home?
2. Broadcast and Cable TV Have Given Up
As written about here and elsewhere, network television hasn’t been home to appointment content in many years, and at this past year’s Emmys, not a single network show brought home an award, or in many cases even a nomination, in any of the major categories. Americans still watch network TV, but its relevance has been reduced largely to sports, reality TV and local news. Broadcast television once put up a hearty fight against the advent of cable and its content competition. But now, things are radically different. It’s as though when streaming came along, the suits at the both the broadcast and cable networks simply said, “I give up.” Or more importantly, the owners of those same entertainment concerns, seeing streaming’s future, said, “Time to focus our resources elsewhere.”
3. Studios Are Sick Of Sharing
One of the many advantages of streaming for studios is that they can control the supply chain from idea to distribution. A studio will no longer have to share box-office receipts with the theater owner. It won’t have to double up on marketing when a title leaves theaters for SVOD. It won’t have to license its content to a cable or network provider (unless it owns that cable or network provider) and it therefore can predict with even greater certainty, the lifespan and profitability of anything from a low budget reality show to a big budget, franchise, feature film.
4. The Hollywood Community Is OK With It
Despite lots of grumbling about the way WarnerMedia announced its pivot to digital with its produced theatrical content slated to be in theaters in 2021 and beyond, apparently without warning to their premium talent, the agents that represent them or the theater owners themselves who would be most affected, the truth is, Hollywood is largely accepting of streaming being a necessary and accepted new way forward. The romance of seeing one’s work on the big screen will still be possible, but it won’t happen in the sequential, linear manner it once did. Some of the magic will be gone, but not all of it. And as much as people think of Hollywood as an emotionally immature community populated with irresponsible, short-sighted artists (all true, by the way), those same artists are folks who like to work. If the word streaming equals “pay” – – then Hollywood will embrace it, the way they always have. Artists and audiences embraced it when vaudeville moved to traditional theater…when theater became radio…when radio became short films…when silent film became “talkies”…when two-reelers became feature length…when TV competed with movies and now when streaming challenges everything.
5. Follow The Money
When you boil down how much original content is going to be funneled onto streaming platforms over the next 12-18 months, versus what was available on the newer streaming platforms in mid 2020, the difference will be staggering and look quaint by comparison. Anything new the consumer will want to see, will be first and foremost available on their streaming platform. Everything else – – theatrical, broadcast, cable or some other yet to be invented format – – will follow behind, not because of the pandemic nor because of movie theater’s failing – – but because every major entertainment studio and digital platform has decided to move in that direction. While the pivot from multi-tiered roll outs of content across multiple platforms to studio-owned digital platforms, may have seemed abrupt (and it was), it’s going to remain this way.
Like the Internet or the telephone, streaming is a technology that’s here to stay, and likely to dominate, at least in the entertainment sector. But like traditional snail mail, or telephone landlines, the real question becomes: what will happen to broadcast TV, cable TV and satellite? Are these entertainment sectors as durable as Broadway, radio and the cinema, or will traditional, non-streaming TV go the way of vaudeville?
We’ll likely know much sooner than we think.