Staff Editorial: A symptom of our streaming service problem

DisneyPlus was released one month ago yesterday. And already, how many people have it? We don’t know, because Disney won’t release the numbers — but we do know that the day after it launched, it had already gained over 10 million subscribers. That’s not even taking into account the no doubt millions more who stole their friends’, coworkers’, and family members’ accounts (don’t deny it: We’ve all done it at some point). 

DisneyPlus is already well on its way towards becoming one of the biggest names in streaming services — if it isn’t already. And yet, that once-elite list seems to only be growing bigger and bigger, as more and more services become widely available and used. Netflix. HBO. Hulu. Ring any bells?

Remember when it seemed like you could find everything on Netflix? It used to be a one-stop-shop for everything your heart desired. But now, it seems like more and more of the shows we know and love have been leaving the service. And where are they going? New, different streaming services. The Office will be leaving in 2021 for a new NBC streaming service. Friends will be leaving to be available exclusively on HBO Max, a streaming service by WarnerMedia, the company that owns the show. And with DisneyPlus itself, who knows how many Disney shows have been pulled? Who knows how many are yet to leave?

The problem seems to be that these companies can create, own, and distribute these movies and television shows — everything involved in the filmmaking process. And it makes sense, from a business standpoint — why not control the distribution of your own movie as much as possible? Why not make even more money by getting subscribers directly every time someone wants to watch your movie?

For the consumer, of course, it’s not all fun and games.

This fragmentation of the system, the requirement to buy more and more subscriptions to have access to fewer and fewer shows, is only going to get worse. Soon, we’ll have to pay a $7/month fee just to watch one or two shows that we like from Disney, or NBC, or whoever else decides next that it would be more profitable to create their own service. Soon, we’ll only be able to watch Netflix shows on Netflix, Disney shows on DisneyPlus, HBO shows on HBO.

And if this system sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before. We called it cable.

That’s what we’re slowly going back to — a more expensive, less convenient version of cable. A version of cable where you have to log in to a different account every time you want to watch a different show. A version where you have a million crappy Netflix originals to sift through before finding the one good one out of the bunch. A version where even if you wheedle your way into stealing your friend’s HBO subscription — oops! The show you wanted just moved to a new niche streaming service no one’s ever heard of.

We probably won’t go back to the days of cable television. But it’s also not entirely impossible that the golden days of streaming are behind us. The precedent has been set — we can’t undo the creation of DisneyPlus, and other company-specific services like it. And so a new system has been created — one that wasn’t created for our benefit.

If you’re upset by this system too, there’s only one thing you can do: Stop subscribing to all these different companies. Don’t get a DisneyPlus account — don’t give them the money that they want, and they’ll stop doing what you don’t want them to. That’s our power as consumers: The power of our dollar. Just don’t subscribe.

But yeah, we know that you will. And so will we.