By Matt Kyle | Assistant News Editor
Online streaming has been the dominant way people have consumed media in the past few years. Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBOMax and many, many other platforms routinely keep millions of subscribers and are successful enough to produce their own original series instead of hosting existing cable shows.
I’m not going to lie about the many benefits of streaming; I subscribe to all the services I just listed, and I use them all the time to find new shows and binge existing favorites. Streaming has revolutionized the way we consume media, and while it is very friendly to subscribers, streaming can negatively impact creators and is producing a trend that could lead to negative outcomes.
Look at recent events at Warner Bros Discovery. To explain everything quickly, Warner Bros merged with Discovery last year, and new CEO David Zaslav has the goal of saving as much money as possible. As part of this quest, Warner Bros Discovery canceled several upcoming and nearly finished films to claim them as tax write-offs to recoup production costs, meaning nobody will ever be able to watch “Batgirl” or “SCOOB: Holiday Haunt.”
Then, HBOMax pulled 36 titles from the service in order to avoid having to pay residuals to the shows’ creators, which included 20 original titles only available on HBOMax. In the case of “Infinity Train,” the soundtrack was also pulled from Spotify, and all mentions of the show were scrubbed from Cartoon Network’s social media.
While most of the shows pulled were due to low ratings, several of the shows were critically acclaimed and had dedicated fanbases. One of the shows — “Close Enough,” from “Regular Show” creator JQ Quintel — had a new season come out in April, and now it has been canceled and almost completely wiped from the internet.
Imagine pouring your heart and soul into a project only to have it unceremoniously canceled and deleted from the internet. This not only is horrible for the creators but also has bad implications for the future of entertainment media.
The only way to currently watch “Close Enough” and “Infinity Train” is by purchasing digital episodes and seasons online. There are no DVDs or physical media of the shows. While they are still available to buy or rent online, there is no guarantee Amazon and Youtube will host them forever, and they could be unavailable to buy at some point in the future.
As streaming has risen, ownership of physical media like DVDs, Blu-Ray, CDs and books has dwindled. As a kid, I remember having shelves upon shelves of DVDs, CDs and books, and now everything has been sold, and I watch everything through online paid-for services.
Again, I think streaming is super convenient, and it is the best option for listening to music. I do believe it is the best way to find new shows, and I am a big fan of binge-watching.
But these services have taken away the ownership of media from consumers. While popular streaming originals like “Stranger Things” are available in physical formats, what guarantee is there that shows with lower viewership will be available for fans, and how do creators know their shows won’t be pulled and wiped from existence without a moment’s notice?
As the world moves toward the metaverse and digital everything, we need to remember the importance of keeping physical media. As long as you have electricity and a TV, a DVD and DVD player will always work. You can buy your favorite shows and movies and watch them whenever you want.