Streaming Services Should Charge More

Rounding third base to middle age and having kids has caused me to think a lot about how different their lives are going to be than mine.

I suppose this is a rite of passage every generation goes through.

A lot of it has to do with the technological progress we’ve experienced over my lifetime.

I graduated high school in the year 2000 which is weird because I grew up in the pre-internet age but have witnessed all of the changes the internet has brought us.

I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was a senior in college (it was a flip phone). Social media and camera phones weren’t really a thing until after I graduated (thank God).

My parent’s generation would talk about walking up hill to school both ways (in the snow). They only had 3 channels to watch on TV. There were no ATMs so if they needed cash on the weekend they were basically out of luck.

For children of the 1990s, the entertainment options are our walking up hill both ways.

For instance, we used to buy an entire cassette tape or CD because we liked one song we heard on the radio. Unless a friend bought it first you hoped the rest of the album was good and you weren’t wasting $14.99 for one song.

The best way to buy albums in bulk was through a Columbia House memership.

When you first signed up they would send you like 10-12 CDs for a penny but you had to buy 4 more over the course of your membership. Each month they would send you a form in the mail asking if you wanted to buy anything and if you forget to send it back they sent you the CD of the month automatically (and you had to buy it).1

We had AOL instant messenger in our later high school years but it was more of an experiment than something we used all the time.

Don’t get me wrong, I had plenty of screen time when I was growing up but it was so much different than how things work today.

I grew up with cable but we’re talking more like 40-50 channels than the 300-400 you can get these days. Yes, there were a decent number of movies and shows on but you had to sit through commercials. And with no smartphones to fill every minute of dead air we all basically sat there like suckers and actually watched the commercials.

If we wanted a movie on demand we had to go to Blockbuster or Family Video to rent it. Most older movies had 1-2 copies available. There were maybe 8-10 copies of the new releases. If those movies were already checked out, you were shit out of luck.

So we would spend our Friday nights walking around the video rental stores for 45 minutes just hoping to find something good to watch (movies were better back then so that helped a little).

New episodes of our favorite TV shows were only on from September through May. In the summer the TV networks basically just gave up. Sure, there were some re-runs, game shows and maybe a few new pilots they were testing out (most of them never made it) but TV more or less shut down in the summertime.

And when your favorite shows did air they were on at a specific time. You had to watch commercials every 8 minutes or so. If you weren’t in front of your TV at that time, you were shit out of luck.

There was no such thing as on-demand, pausing, rewinding, binging or hitting the skip intro button. Sure, you could record something on your VCR but it rarely worked and looked like crap if it did. Everyone in the 1990s has a story about someone else taping over something they wanted to watch, with their recording was lost for all of eternity.

There were more way episodes back then for each show and there wasn’t much in the way of prestige TV shows but if you missed an episode there was basically no way to watch it again.

When your favorite shows weren’t on at their scheduled time, you would channel surf until you found something. You could be clicking forever with nothing good to watch. And when you finally stumbled upon something you liked it’s not like you could go back to the start somehow to view it from the beginning.

I’ve watched A LOT of movies on TNT, TBS and USA over the years where I started at the halfway point or right before the very end. You would piecemeal an old movie together over the course of a summer as opposed to watching it all in one sitting.

Did people complain?

Not really. This is just the way things worked. Everyone kind of accepted it. There was no social media around to complain anyway.

But now? Now we complain about everything all the time.

Ugh I was scrolling Netflix for an hour tonight and still couldn’t find anything.

Why are there so many streaming networks now?

Why are prices rising?

It is true that streaming service prices are going up. Check out this chart from the Wall Street Journal:

I have been saying for years that I will be the last person standing when it comes to cutting the cord. I love the cable bundle. They will have to pry cable from my cold dead hands.

My AT&T Uverse plan gets me internet, 400 channels, HBO, Starz, Showtime and a bunch of sports channels.

Yet I still subscribe to every other streaming service because we love watching movies and TV shows. That’s right, I have Paramount Plus, Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, Peacock, Apple TV+, Max (or whatever they’re calling HBO these days) and probably something else I’m forgetting.

I’m diversified when it comes to entertainment options.

So I feel the pain when prices go up.

It goes against my own self-interest to say this but these streaming services have been woefully underpriced for years.

There are hundreds of TV shows available on these services. Every season and every episode. Breaking Bad. Mad Men. The Wire. The Sopranos. Lost. Friday Night Lights. You can binge-watch them all or go back to your favorite episodes anytime you want.

And the movies. So many movies.

You can watch them all on your smart TV, iPad, desktop or iPhone whenever you want as many times as you want.

1990s Ben would have been blown away by the sheer volume of movies and TV shows we now have available at the click of a button anytime, anywhere we want to watch them.

The streamers all underpriced their offerings to get people to switch from cable and bring on new subscribers. That worked (for most of them) but now the costs to produce content and keep bringing on new subs are getting out of control. There’s too much competition.

One would assume this means consolidation is coming but that’s probably going to be difficult because of all the moving parts and egos involved.

So prices will keep rising. They’re all going to offer ad-tier products and jack up the prices for the ad-free versions. It’s already happening but it’s going to get worse.

Inflation in streaming services is probably here to stay for a while.

I’ll gladly keep paying up for it.

Further Reading:
Why I’m Never Cutting the Cord

1I did this like four times. Good thing the music was good in the 90s.