Friday, October 14, 2011

How Streaming Media Services Affect our Perception of “Owning” Music and Movies

Despite the company’s recent price increases, the decision to split its DVD delivery and streaming businesses and the lamentable choice to name the former “Qwikster” (as one friend commented, “It sounds like fast-drying spackling!”)*, I am an avid Netflix fan. And if the company can increase its still-inadequate library of on-demand content, this miser may eventually ditch his ancient, 500-pound behemoth of a TV and invest in one with Netflix streaming built in, or maybe just a Roku box. Right now, I occasionally watch a movie on my HTC Flyer tablet, which is a better viewing experience than an iPhone/iPod but still a little rinky dink for my liking.

So why does the ability to get movies without waiting for a DVD to arrive or, heaven forbid, leaving the house to patron the nearest Redbox, appeal? Because it’s quick, convenient, offers a (soon to be) wide choice and there’s a predictable, all-you-can-watch fee instead of an individual charge per disc. And if I sometime think that Amazon’s Instant Video has a better selection, maybe I’ll forsake Netflix.

So that’s the good, but what about the bad or potentially bad? How is the rise of streaming film and TV content affecting studios large and small, and the actors, producers, directors, crew members and others they employ? Were some of the same questions asked when other new technologies were rolled out? The television? The videotape machine?

Certainly, DVD and Blu-Ray sales are down. And movie prices continue to rise, much to my horror. $12 for a ticket? In the middle of Kansas? Really? I also loathe the gimmicky “cinema suites” that offer a crappy buffet and cheap beer if you’re willing to fork over $20 bucks or more per ticket, and possibly the shirt off your back, too. But how much of these price hikes and the luxury concept that seems to be borrowed from major league sports’ premium on suites and boxes is attributable to movie studios, and how much to the theater companies themselves? I admit that I don’t know.

What I do know is that the ability to stream movies and music on demand, on mobile devices as well as at home, is profoundly affecting how we think about owning this content. 

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