If it’s one thing we seem to have more of than ever before, it’s streaming options for TV and movies. So why can’t we find what we want?
If there’s one thing research demonstrates, it’s that American viewers seem to love their streaming options.
A Deloitte Digital Media Trends Study found that 85% of U.S. households now have at least one subscription to a video streaming service. That would include services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Peacock or Paramount+.
The average user pays for four such services. Approximately 7% have six or more streaming subscriptions.
At the moment, I pay for five: Philo, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and Paramount+. I use the free version of Peacock and occasionally a purely-free service like Freevee or Redbox.
So I’m above average in the number of streaming subscriptions I pay for. But like what I imagine would be most people, I find myself below average in satisfaction with the actual viewing options I have.
So many titles but so few winners.
This will take you back. But I remembered the other day visiting a Blockbuster store. Remember those brick-and-mortar behemoths full of VHS tapes and later DVDs for rent? We found it so satisfying to browse the shelves trying to find just the film or TV show we wanted to see.
Before that (and for some, it’s still the preferred browsing), people visited libraries and put the same amount of focus on books rather than video titles.
There was always the risk of finding your heart set on a title that someone else had checked out.
Streaming options, at least, eliminate that possibility.
But even when your first choices in a library or video store were available, there were still those days where nothing clicked for you. You’d walk down aisle after aisle and find so many things to watch — but nothing that you wanted to.
That shouldn’t happen in the 21st century.
It dawned on me the other day while I browsed through titles on one streaming service or another. I know what I want in a streaming service. I know exactly what the “perfect” service would be.
But it doesn’t exist.
You see, I want to be able to always find the TV shows I enjoy. Almost all of those happen to be what we now call “classic” series. My must-have list would include the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, All in the Family, Picket Fences, Sanford and Son, The Twilight Zone, M*A*S*H and, of course, the greatest television show ever produced, The Andy Griffith Show. I would add newer programs like Everybody Loves Raymond and Criminal Minds as “nice-to-haves.”
Likewise, there are plenty of movies I think any reasonably-stocked streaming service ought to have available at all times. I won’t list them here, but if I were to do so, many of the titles in my 10-part list of 100 favorite films would qualify.
I consider them similar to the “staple” items that every grocery store worth its salt stocks, no matter how many additional varieties of other items they may carry.
There should be a bare minimum that all reasonable streaming services should offer their subscribers, then expand upon.
But streaming options don’t operate that way.
FreeVee, an Amazon-owned free service, does offer a handful of classic TV titles as well as a mix of movies. You sit through commercial breaks, but that’s the only price you pay there.
However, some titles are restricted under licensing agreements to specific services only. Shows like the original Twilight Zone have left other services in favor of Paramount+. (Paramount owns the series.) Oddly enough, The Andy Griffith Show seems to have disappeared from all streaming services (except as a purchase option on Amazon Prime). ‘TAGS’ is owned by Paramount, yet it can’t be found even on Paramount+.
Different services acquire rights to different titles — TV shows and movies. Sometimes, those rights are only temporary. So just when you figure out where you can watch a favorite, the next time you go back to give it another look, you find that it’s gone again.
What I really want doesn’t seem to exist…and probably never will.
I keep thinking back to browsing the shelves of that Blockbuster store. That’s what I want in a streaming service.
I want a real selection of titles. I want to pick what I want to watch, not what that one “store” is licensed to show me that week. Blockbuster surely cycled titles, but they maintained a healthy selection. There were plenty of popular films they always had.
Amazon Prime may be the closest to this. But you pay a large yearly fee and then you have to rent those titles on top of that.
If I’m in the mood to watch a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie, I want to be able to watch it without having to pay for renting it from a service I’m already paying to use.
Maybe the ideal streaming service gives you a broad selection of popular films with, say, four to eight free “rentals” a month. That way, you could enjoy that variety of good titles you’ve heard of but not have to feel like you’re nickeled and dimed to death for everything you want to see.
Is that such an unreasonable idea?
If you could design a streaming service, what would you offer? How would you charge?