Streaming services are in dire straits – yet I’m still shelling out seven | Emma Brockes
JThe first streaming service I subscribed to was Hulu, back in 2009. It was free, with very little content, so the effort-reward ratio of setting up a password was almost too outrageous to get away with. worry. I guess Netflix came next – the first subscription service I paid for. Netflix didn’t have much in 2011 either, but at $8 a month the price was so tempting that it seemed somehow cheaper than free.
Then came Amazon Prime Video, included in the annual Prime plan. At the time, my monthly cable bill was around $140 a month, and this new model offered a surprising promise: not only to lower my bills, but also to avoid having to deal with Time Warner Cable.
Well, ha, as they say. Ten years later, after such modest beginnings, I dare not calculate my monthly subscriptions. My Netflix bill has nearly doubled, Hulu is no longer free, and they’ve been joined by a handful of other streaming services that, cheap in isolation, are almost certainly more than cable.
In our house, in addition to these original streamers, we have Disney+, HBOMax and Peacock Premium Plus. I’m using someone else’s password for Brit Box. I pay for a VPN to get BBC iPlayer. For a very long time, I resisted Apple TV — I didn’t need to see The Morning Show — but this month I gave in and subscribed to watch Severance. My line in the sand is Showtime. I almost did, for Yellowjackets, but I kept my cool and after reporting that the show went downhill after episode three, I’m convinced I made the right call. I won’t do Paramount+ and don’t even talk to me about Starz.
The whole situation has become ridiculous and every month, looking at my expenses, I tell myself that something has to go. It’s not a singular frustration. Last month, Netflix announced a net loss of 200,000 subscribers in the first quarter, with another 2 million losses expected and a nearly 35% drop in the company’s share price. A few days later, CNN+, a subscription service derived from CNN, announced its closure. Consumers are exhausted, financially and otherwise. After the pandemic, we seem to be going out more, with less TV time. There is too much.
In the case of Netflix, it’s also a matter of quality. In recent years, the company has grossly overpaid for questionable content, including the laughable $100 million it paid for Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry’s whimsical ideas, an expense that has turned against her. Last week he killed off Pearl, the cartoon Meghan was apparently working on – and it makes me laugh every time – David Furnish, and that, along with the couple’s other unrealized notes, will be a footnote to page in the overall demise of the company. At least Netflix saved on production costs; in recent years, a lot of expensive waste has been filtered out. (Girlboss, anyone? How about Snowpiercer?)
As a result, Netflix announced this week that by the end of the year, it will likely have introduced ads, as have other streamers including Hulu. The company also suggested it could crack down on password sharing. Last month, Netflix mentioned on its earnings call that around 100 million households share their passwords, a fact that could incur a small surcharge when the streamer detects that a given account is being used more than once. address.
It seems reasonable. (I shared my Netflix password with a friend, who shared it with her mother, then changed my password when the streamer cut us off; you can’t watch Netflix on more than two screens simultaneously without Now I’m back to sharing with the same friend – not her mother – but I still have to call her every once in a while and yell at her to kick her son out of her screen, while she’s on hers, so I can get on mine. which goes beyond the subscription tag.)
I would cancel Netflix at this point, if I could. As in 2011, there is nothing on it that I want to watch. Of all the bad decisions, though, the streamer made a really good one: investing in tween shows like Sam & Cat, starring Ariana Grande, and Henry Danger, which my seven-year-olds are addicted to. Cutting them would cause more commotion than I have the energy to. Also: cake shows. My kids have the entire Disney library at their disposal, but – a testament to the oddities of the market and how difficult it is to guess what will keep an audience hungry – would rather watch someone bake a cake that looks like a shoe.