Streaming Services: The Double Edged Sword of Entertainment
Over the years we have witnessed the rise of streaming services, reaping the benefits from the various platforms and having the odd complaint when you find out your favourite platform is increasing their monthly subscription price.
With global video streaming services estimated to hit a total value of 330 billion dollars (272.9bn pounds) by 2030, we can see just how embedded these platforms are in today’s society. The question is how did we get here and at what cost?
With the introduction of apps such as Spotify, whatever song you want to hear is usually at the click of your fingers, we tend to forget that we used to live in times where listening to music looked something like this ‘Jordin_sparks_no_air_ft_chris_brown_mp3_download’.
Streaming services really changed the game in terms of accessibility, whether that was with music or movies and TV shows. Through the rise of more streaming platforms we saw the downfall of your traditional distribution outlets of entertainment. Remember Blockbuster? Neither do I, this is because these shops are long gone due to how easy it became to access visual entertainment online.
It is evident that streaming services have taken over as more platforms emerged over the years, giving you a variety of options to choose from to the point that going to the cinema sometimes seems pointless, because it will be on one of the Big 3 platforms (Netflix, Prime, Disney+) within the next year without fail. I do think that aspects such as nostalgia play a part in streaming service success in relation to TV and Film but the main factor comes down to how accessible the content is. If you wanted to binge watch a show, the option is there for you to do it, in the comfort of your own home or on the move. Likewise with music platforms, you can have thousands of songs on your phone with ease, that you can play whenever and wherever you want. It is pretty much giving you the opportunity to experience a mini concert from your favourite artist for roughly 10.99 pounds a month (if you are a Spotify girly, and yes there has been an increase in price) depending on what platform you choose to use.
A benefit of streaming services is the visibility that it can give someone. Let’s briefly take a look at the late Jamal Edwards platform SBTV. This ran via YouTube and was the catalyst for many established music careers within the UK today e.g. Ed Sheeran because they had the platform to showcase their talent. The same can be said for other cultural platforms such as LinkupTV, GRM Daily and Mixtape Madness that focus on spotlighting talent that would not have necessarily had a fair chance to blow if these platforms did not exist. I am sure you can all remember the legendary 1011 Next Up Part One on Mixtape Madness, fast forward to 7 years later and Digga D is now one of the biggest names in UK Rap.
There is no denying that YouTube has been a pivotal platform for many recognisable influencers career progression, with it being one of the most recognisable streaming platforms in the world. YouTube gives you the chance to get a deep dive into individuals’ lives and then follow them through activities as if they are your own personal friend, intrusive yes, but the benefit of visibility is that people can fall in love with you and your talents. Often resulting in a loyal fan base building, which usually (if consistency is there) leads to a large amount of success on the other side of it. If you look at the most recognisable influencers in today’s society, both in the UK and abroad, a common theme you will find is that many of them started from YouTube.
Being visible can be a game changer for peoples’ lives and you have most likely witnessed at least one person's rise to fame in real time across a streaming service. However, with some of the benefits mentioned, there are also downfalls to streaming services as we have seen through the recent writers and actors strike.
3. Pay your people
Just over 100 days ago the film and TV industry shut down as the strikes began. In short actors began to strike because of how much they were making from residuals off of their show. They were not being fairly compensated for their work and the main reason behind this was because of streaming services. For example, Kimiko (Brook Soso – Orange Is The New Black) took to TikTok to show how much she was making in residuals from one of the biggest shows to come out of Netflix in 2013. She is being paid as little as $0.01 per episode appearance, as a relative series regular, whilst Netflix grossed over 30 billion dollars in 2022. This unfair compensation has led to many actors coming out and striking because how are you meant to live off of residuals if they are as small as that...Chelsea come on now!
This is the reality for many people despite their work making these platforms relevant. The problem lies in the fact that the streaming services are the main source of consumption. The level of accessibility for such a small fee has only resulted in these platforms getting richer, whilst actors continue to struggle, unless you’re the main cast of Friends and making roughly 20 million a year.
The same logic can also be applied to musicians, who make barely (and I mean barely) any money from Spotify streams, unless you are one of the big dogs like Drake who probably makes money in his sleep because his catalogue is long (and mostly great) and he has already broken through the visibility barrier.
I think we fail to realise the value of how much we have access to across different services and what is on the other side of that for either businesses that got pushed out of the game (your trusty Blockbuster) or even the people that have contributed to said form of entertainment. The WGA and SGA strikes have really highlighted the problems of streaming services and the reality for most actors that you would think are making big amounts of cash dollar but instead its cents. It all depends on what side of the entertainment industry you are on; if you are a consumer then you have all the benefits and the occasional price hike to worry about. But if you are the entertainer then for the most part you have to deal with the realities of streaming services.
So I ask you as you come to the end of this blog, what is the price that is paid for our enjoyment?