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The Age of Streaming Services: Then, Now, and Beyond [Exclusive Interview Inside]

Previously published on The Artifice.

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SOURCE: Vidooly

“My family are huge TV watchers. We will, unfortunately, subscribe to everything”, states an anonymous comment made by a viewer in a public survey.* It is common to feel impotent towards new movies and tv shows releasing online every week. The Internet made content accessible for the public, but the catch is that the viewers feel the need to keep up with it all both financially and otherwise.

Streaming is replacing the beloved TV in the average household. Whether it is Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime, (or all three!), there is a guest in the house who will literally cut the cable, and, it may be here to stay. So, how did the average consumer welcome streaming without a visible transition? It started with a live internet video by some tech company nerds in 1993. It was a poor attempt that used up half of the available bandwidth of the entire internet. In 1994, the New York Times referred to the Rolling Stones as “the first [major] rock band in cyberspace” to promote their music to millions of streamers. As you can imagine, there was some controversy about who was first and what should’ve been written in Rolling Stones’ press releases. Fast forward to 2005, Saturday Night Live (SNL) released its first video short on Youtube, right around the time that the service started becoming popular. In 2007, Netflix (NFLX), previously known to be a mail-order service, introduced its on-demand platform and became an influencing figure as both a content-producer and provider. Today, the same company has 24 Oscar nominations (2020).

The Inevitable Death of Television

The Universal TV Problem is perhaps rooted in its adaptable nature. In the 40s, the black chunky boxes found their place in the American home and made their debut a little later internationally in the 70s. As Media Theorist Neil Postman discussed foreseeingly in the 80s, the average family (despite their income) started positioning their couches to face the television. And the television found its purpose as the entertainer, silence-filler, and now, a mere accessory.

Our brains spend too much uncommitted time in front of the television to truly commit to its information. The television is rapidly dying along with the broadcast news. We retain less and less of what we hear and even forget where we heard it from. It is not to say that there weren’t any attempts at bringing different content with a monetary cost like subscription TV—However, nothing seemed to help the fate of once adored television.

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What Now? A New Place for the Televisual Content

While the traditional network executives have been busy planning detailed marketing strategies, streaming services are releasing a notable number of original shows every month. The subscribers are seated to be entertained by different content continuously, leaving no time for boredom and rewarding a few of the eager viewers with the binge-watching curse. Yes, the entertainment machine takes a new form in 2020, however, the viewers have all freedom they would need to make the choice on their exposés.

Binnur Karaevli, the director-producer, and screenwriter of Netflix’s critically acclaimed The Protector [Hakan Muhafiz], stated in an interview (Vancouver, BC) “Future is really the streaming services. Of course, the networks will continue, but right now, we have Netflix, Amazon [Prime], Apple [TV], and recent additions like Disney Plus and HBO Max.” Karaevli is the first Turkish filmmaker to score a deal with Netflix (NFLX), the global market leader. Netflix is projected to have an 86.3% penetration in the US market.

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The Protector Season 1
SOURCE: log.com.tr

Streaming Services: An International Powerhouse

Streaming services are writing history while the traditional broadcast TV is rapidly losing its viewers. Amongst other reasons, it may be true that streaming services are the reason for the decreasing rate of television viewership. Karaevli states, “It’s a completely different way of doing business [compared to local filmmaking in Turkey]”, she adds, “Doing the first one [globally-accessible production] is always challenging—but exciting, too.” The streaming productions do not target a specific local group nor suffer from network or government bans, which means they can offer fresh opportunities for diverse content. Karaevli suggests, “In fact, it is helping the industry. The streamers are international so, it is a huge plus.” Prior to the rise of the stated services, US-based networks like ABC, NBC, targeted the American culture. “Today, streaming services you can access productions from Turkey, and all around the world— which I find exciting!” says Karaevli (See, references for further information on the interviews).

Familiar Faces: The Mouse House

2019 solidified the presence of streaming services in the average household with releases of highly expected services like Apple TV and Disney Plus. Specifically, Disney was expected to be Netflix’s biggest rival. As the President of Marketing Asad Ayaz stated in an interview, it was important for Disney to market the films that spoke to the now-older audience and expand their horizons for the youth. It was inevitable for Disney to develop the much-talked remakes to achieve these two goals at the same time. It is forecasted that Disney Plus will have 60 to 90 million global subscribers by 2024. According to A.J. Black, the author of Myth-Building in Modern Media, there are already too many services in the market. Black states, “People will inevitably dip in and dip out of subscriptions, but it could lead to some trying to lock down customers for long[er] subscription periods”, and adds, “If they do, that could cause problems if too much content is still diversified across platforms”.

Gold Standards Established by the Users

The results from a public survey conducted upon the development stage of this article showed: 86% of the viewers stuck with Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime (41%), Hulu (25%)*. It was surprising to see Disney Plus (16%) was not amongst the first choices for the viewers. However, it should be noted that there are simply too many countries that Disney Plus has not been released yet. 48.94% of the streamers stated they would be purchasing a Disney Plus membership upon its availability in their countries. 81.63% of the streamers were satisfied with the service they have been using.

Streamers first considered 1) a wide range of older shows (78%), 2) the purchase price (77%), 3) original (new) shows (69%), and 4) brand reputation (30%) to affect their decision of purchasing a membership. Others noted, “interface design and usability”, “advertising”, “lack of exclusivity and geo-blocking”. Streamers also preferred to have “access to episodes all at once (85.19%)” over having “access to one episode on the release date (14.81%)”.

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James Bareham/Polygon
FILED UNDER: STREAMING

What the Streamers Say

“I don’t care about new originals; I base my purchases solely on the shows and movies I am specifically looking to watch. Thus, I am about to drop Hulu and Disney+ and will use Netflix until I have seen everything on there I care about. I have zero brand loyalty.”

“I would only pay for a maximum of 2 streaming services. I think what each company has done in creating their own service is stupid and I refuse to pay for it – instead, I’ve just gone back to torrenting, which is a shame because I prefer legally streaming but I can’t afford 5+ memberships.”

“There’s too many available right now – we’re back to where we started with cable.

“Streaming services should be about service, but currently they revolve around exclusivity (which I find an immoral monopoly) and geoblocking (despite being provided through the internet, which is global). Because of that moral objection I don’t subscribe to any and resort to the moral alternative of piracy.”

“It’s smart business. Streaming has the potential to eventually eradicate common TV entertainment…or…they have the potential to be put on TV channels of their own, to be a part of cable/satellite packs at everyone’s disposition.”

“It’s turning back into Cable. People are going to be back to pirating shows before long. I am concerned about the withdrawal of physical media from the market.”

“Until a streaming service can reliably provide me with anything I want at a moment’s notice better than my own library can, I’m not interested and I’ll continue to use my own library.”

“Stream services are dying. The appeal used to be you’d have one or two sites that had practically everything, so it was a nice convenience price. But now everyone and their mouse want a slice, and we’re dealing with a bunch of sub-par services where you’re lucky to find a single worthwhile show. So yeah, back to just stealing what I would otherwise more than happily pay for if they didn’t make it so pointlessly hard to do so”.

“Streaming is going to die, everyone will go back to pirating again.”

The Grand Finale

Streaming services already created a need to catch up with the flood of neverending content, and pulled TV’s plug– It is even beginning to threaten the business of movie theatres. The business model used to be based on streaming platforms pulling older seasons of shows and attracting viewers to the newer content that could be found in the traditional TV. The production of original content exclusively for the online platforms started taking life away from the TV, and potentially movie theatres. To be fair, if a consumer can watch an Academy Winner movie at the comfort of their home, why would they attend a niche film festival and pay extra for it? (Streaming productions often make their debut as a part of these festivals and find their way to the on-demand platforms a short while later).

It would be cruel to ignore other truths: Streaming is currently reviving the film industry, opening doors to international content, and allowing viewers to choose what, when, where, and how much they want to watch certain content. In short, streaming services give the viewer their freedom. However, this also has monetary costs. As the anonymous comments state, the availability of content in separate platforms forces the viewers to purchase several memberships. In practice, it makes sense; in reality, the average person cannot (and likely will not) spend 50 bucks per month to watch a new form of TV. And, they most certainly will not want to be tied to years-long subscription periods.

A significant number of streamers already seem like they are going back to illegal methods to access online content. Pirating seems to be the only way to make a leap out of the diverse number of exclusive content that these platforms offer. This will eventually hurt the film industry, but for now, it is still the golden age of streaming services.


*Should you require additional information about the survey results stated above, please contact hazalscamera@gmail.com

References

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985) by Neil Postman

Binnur Karaevli interviewed in-person by Hazal Senkoyuncu in Vancouver, BC (2019).

Neiger, C. (2019, August 27). Netflix’s Market Share Is Shrinking, but It’s Still the King of Video Streaming. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/08/27/netflix-market-share-shrinking-still-streaming.aspx

Online Interview of A.J. Black by Hazal Senkoyuncu (2020).

Poggi, J. (2019, December 9). Marketers of the Year No. 6: Walt Disney Co. Retrieved from https://adage.com/article/media/marketers-year-no-6-walt-disney-co/2221176

Roxborough, S. (2019, November 14). Netflix Dominates Global SVOD Market, but Local Services Gain Ground, Study Finds. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-dominates-global-svod-market-but-local-services-gain-ground-1254438

Strauss, N. (1994, November 22). Rolling Stones Live on Internet: Both a Big Deal and a Little Deal. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/22/arts/rolling-stones-live-on-internet-both-a-big-deal-and-a-little-deal.html

Survey on “streaming services” conducted by Hazal Senkoyuncu, www.hazalscamera.com

Switchboard Live. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://switchboard.live/blog/live-streaming-history

The MoPOP (Museum of Popular Culture) where Sci-Fi meets Fantasy

I dreaded writing again today even though the creative Hazal was knocking on the walls of my brain. That is the girl with long wavy hair who wears a nice shade of pastel mint t-shirt and a violet pleated skirt. She is very bubbly and wants to play. She didn’t have any space at all to exist in this fairly large room in me, it’s been occupied with a load of black and white documents. It hasn’t been fun. But it feels great to have a little more space to be me, again. Let’s welcome the creative girl, and let her tell you why she has been so happy and excited the past few days…

I found myself sitting in a car, being driven to Seattle, WA, for no reason that involves me directly. I will not get into any detail on that. However, because of this trip, I was looking for Christmassy things to do while we were there and came across the annual Seattle Winterfest. Set the GPS, and here we went. The Winterfest as a whole was nothing fancy, all I saw was—a very talented orchestra of high school students playing festive songs and a small indoor skating facility. I was not impressed by what they called a festival as a whole, but the building right across this festival was the MoPOP, meaning the Museum of Popular Culture.

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A view of MoPOP, taken from the courtyard

Let me tell you how excited I felt purchasing my ticket (with an additional charge of $5 to see the Marvel Exhibition), and what a treasure this place was for a Media and Communications student to spend not only 3 hours (as I did), but a whole day (as I wished I did).

Looking from the outside, the maroon-purple building is compelling and makes you wonder what could actually be inside. Is it a circus? A venue? That is practically how I ended up walking in without reading any signs at all. Later, I found out that the riveting building was designed by the one and only Frank O. Gehry. Entering in, I quickly realize I was meant to be here. The 80s pop music, the minimalistic black/brown décor (if I recall it right still), and the kind staff who seem to like their job, pull you in fairly quickly.

Giving my ticket to the attendant, I enter the main lobby: A gigantic screen that covers the whole width of the main wall, and I watch Michael Jackson trying to convince this chick next to him that the movie they are watching is actually not that scary. Ahh… Thriller is about to play. A classic. I place myself on a comfy red-round seat and relax, watching the whole music video since I spent the whole day walking. Feeling content, I walk towards my right, see a set of stairs, and walk down the stairs instead of seeing the first floor first. By the time I finish the first half of the stairs, I read the words “to those who have looked to the stars, and wondered” … I keep walking, then read, “your journey begins here”.

Ah… Infinite Worlds of Science Fiction, the other side of the door looks very dark. Here we go!…? I walk around in an atmosphere that is similar to the inside of a spaceship that is in power saving mode, of course (meaning, there were very minimal lighting across all platforms). The exhibit is home to illustrations and texts written by the authors of Sci-Fi legends as well as iconic pieces from their on-screen adaptations. The pieces are from many stories we are familiar with, such as the Star Wars series, Star Trek series, the Fifth Element (1997), Dune (1965), H.G. Wells’ the War of the Worlds (2005) and the Blade Runner (1982-2017). One that stays with me the most is looking at the life-sized T-800 endoskeleton from the Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), it is definitely challenging to stare at the figure more than 20 seconds in the dark room even though I know there are a bunch of people walking around me. I am certain if I stared at it long enough, I would be able to see its red eyes moving, not to mention that the Terminator was a childhood nightmare as it was one of my parents’ favorite movie. I am surprisingly relieved as I take a couple more steps to my right to see Arnold Schwarzenegger’s leather jacket, right next to the T-800.

The exhibit revolves around the idea that the initial purpose of the Sci-Fi worlds is to let the author express himself bluntly through an outside world and its outsider-creatures. Through creating these worlds that seem so different than the earth, the author(s) is able to illustrate the negative aspects of humanity without offending the readers. So, all the disgusting aliens that we read about… actually, mirror us.

Although seeing the familiar pieces and being able to read the progression of the stories through the personal notes of the author’s had been more than enough for me, the interactive component of the exhibit is also valuable to the experience. I was able to choose any imaginary planet from the Sci-Fi world and examine a holographic vision of it 360 degrees all around, I also explored what it felt like to be sitting inside a spaceship, staring at the zillion buttons I would not know what to do with.

Wishing the Infinite Worlds exhibit had more pieces to observe, I walk away feeling content. I try to find my way around the building until I come across a gigantic wooden door. I read the text that has the very same font as a childhood book of Snow White I can easily recall: “What awaits you on the other side of the door? An enchanting forest. A sleeping dragon. A silver-scaled tree. A giant dragonfly. Unlikely heroes and dark forces.” Oh, that feels home! I realize that I make it to the exhibit, Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic.

Before seeing all the pieces from the movies, I adore, I read through the Archetypes of Fantasy. Later along the exhibit, I realize how useful knowing the archetypes is to deeply understand the components of a story of magic. The archetypes form the pieces of the puzzle that create the riveting story. The Unlikely Hero? Ronald Weasley? Yes, sounds about right! The atmosphere in the exhibit feels right in all the ways possible. A sound effect that reminds me of magic, almost like stars shining and birds chirping at the same time, and subtle lighting that reminds me of a thousand candles being lit, creating space for me to stare at a witches’ ball on a corner of the room.

Moreover, the exhibit contains props, costumes and figures from our silver screen favourites such as the Princess Bride (1987), Conan the Destroyer (1985), Harry Potter (1997-2017), the Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), Narnia, the Legend of Zelda (1986-2018) and a favourite of my best friends—an ancient copy (1974, to be exact) of the iconic game, Dungeons and Dragons!

A favorite moment is seeing Judy Garland’s iconic costume from the Wizard of Oz. Ah, and the black pointy hat that melted right after Garland poured a big bucket of water on the green lady… that was there too! The lady? She was the wicked witch. What a moment of joy seeing Garland beat her up (theoretically, with a bucket of water), and she was able to go back home, to Kansas. I remember watching the very same movie at the age of 5-6 at my grandmother’s house. It was the only movie that would play constantly in one of the channels. Wouldn’t matter the time you turn the TV on, the Wizard of Oz would always be airing. You see it was like Netflix without the choice click cancel, and I would watch it over and over and over again.

Another highlight of the exhibit, again, is seeing the creative process of the authors. A book series that I enjoyed as a 13-year-old middle schooler was the great story of Eragon. I’ve read about the author still being a teenager when he wrote the books, but I never imagined him being 15 years-old. The exhibit shows hand-written notes of Paolini as well as a selection of edits from his publisher. It was a privilege to be able to observe the text so clearly and closely and become a part of the artistic process.

I walk out of the same wooden door. I am sure there is a proper way to exit, but I really want to go through the door again, taking me back to the world without magic. I leave, with my heart feeling full.

I would recommend visiting the MoPOP to all ages (with a parent’s assistance for certain exhibitions) and support the museum financially if you are able to do so. My creative-self was so happy to be present in the moment surrounded by all the things that could possibly inspire me the most. I hope to go back for a longer visit and experience this all again. I was also able to see the Marvel Exhibit, that was extraordinary, and it would require me to write another blog post for such a well-presented exhibit. Let me know if you would like to read about it, and comment below if you have any questions about your upcoming MoPOP visit!

The MoPOP Guide

Address: 325 5th Ave N, Seattle, WA 98105

Hours: 10AM – 5PM Daily

Admission Rates

Adult: $28
Student: $25
Child: FREE

Tip: Save $2 if you buy your tickets online!