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Why The Film And TV Industry's Reliance On Streaming/Digital Media Is Becoming A Problem

The 'way of the future' is not always for the best.

By Kristy AndersonPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read

When Netflix made the move from mail-order DVD rentals to becoming the first major video-on-demand subscription service, it was a major game changer in the entertainment industry, although no-one could have realised just how much at the time. For a while, Netflix monopolised the streaming industry, but this has now well and truly changed. Now, most major studios have their own service through which consumers can stream their content.

While many fans still have personal media libraries collecting their very favourite films and television series, the shift towards streaming has led to quite a few developing a preference for digital copies over physical. This has resulted in some companies deciding to no longer release physical media in some countries.

Unfortunately, the film and TV industry's increasing reliance on streaming and digital copies is beginning to cause problems, for both studios and consumers. Here are just a few of those problems.

You can never truly 'own' digital media, even if you've paid for it

The Funimation streaming app has been one of the major sources of anime streaming content for as long as it has existed. In recent years, it has been one of the main streaming homes for mainstream hits such as Dragon Ball Super and My Hero Academia, as well as a large library of other anime series. In 2022, it was announced that the Funimation app would be merged with the other main anime streamer, Crunchyroll, with the latter in the process of copying Funimation's content library and user information over to their own database before the Funimation app reaches it's scheduled shut down in April 2024.

Aside from creating a near monopoly on anime specific streaming services, the merge will nearly double the price of a yearly Crunchyroll subsciription. That, unfortunately, is not the worst part. In recent weeks, Crunchyroll revealed that the merged app will no longer support digital copies that users had 'owned' through Funimation. While this is not the disaster that it would be through other services (Funimation's digital copies required input of a code from the physical DVD/Blu-Ray, which customers hopefully still have), it speaks to a larger issue with the sale of digital films and TV.

A customer can never truly own a digital copy they have purchased in the way one owns a physical DVD. They could lose access in any number of ways, such as if they lose access to the account or app through which they purchased it, the app is shut down, or, in a strong possibility with how fast technology moves, the app or file type becomes obsolete and unplayable. For this reason, many hardcore cinephiles still swear by physical media. However, with companies halting new physical releases in some countries, physical copies may become harder to come by.

Streaming is still having adverse effect on the Cinema industry

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down movie theatres worldwide, Streaming, for a time, seemed to be a saviour to studios, who dropped some new release films, sometimes for an extra fee, onto their streaming services in attempt to recoup their losses from being unable to release in theatres. Unfortunately, when theatres did reopen, many fans were nervous or reluctant to return, showing a preference towards waiting for a film to be released for streaming instead.

Currently, as well as elderly or medically fragile people still nervous about returning to theatres, the current cost of living crisis has made cinema trips an expensive luxury for many. Unless a film is an absolute must see, people are willing to save themselves the ticket cost and wait until it becomes available for streaming. Family trips to the cinema are even more expensive, putting children's and family films, such as Disney's Wish, at a greater risk of the growing 'wait for streaming' crowd.

This is also an issue for films which receive bad word-of-mouth in early release, discouraging those who would usually have seen it in theatres. Since latest MCU entry The Marvels has been released on Digital and Disney Plus, many online reactors who skipped the cinema have expressed surprise at how much they actually enjoyed the film. Unfortunately, this new appreciation has come too late to save The Marvels from becoming the lowest grossing MCU film of all time.

On top of all this, the reduction in ticket sales means some cinemas, particularly independents and those in low-population areas, are struggling to remain open.

We may be heading into a new age of 'Lost Media'

Vast amounts of classic content from the earliest days of film and television have been lost forever due to film being lost or damaged, or tapes wiped so they could be re-used (at the time, the idea of a future home video release was unthinkable). One of the most notorious examples of the latter is Doctor Who, which has a whopping 97 episodes from the early years missing due to the BBC wiping the original tapes.

The idea that something similar could happen in the present day should be unbelievable, yet it is not. All streaming services have original films and shows exclusive to that service. In many cases, they are reluctant to release these Originals on DVD. This is fine when they remain on the service.. but not so much if they don't. In May 2023, Disney purged a number of films and shows from the Disney Plus streaming service. Among them was Willow, an 8-episode Television sequel to the 1988 movie of the same name. The series quickly became a cult classic of the LGBT community, who campaigned heavily for it's return. However, while many of the purged films have been made available for digital purchase, Willow remains unavailable through official means, leaving it at great risk of becoming lost media.

The problem goes beyond originals. After merging with Warner/Discovery, HBO Max purged a large chunk of it's animation catalogue. Most of the purged series are not available in full through any other sources. Streaming services can drop any film or show, at any time, with no thought for whether it can be viewed elsewhere. Some fans fear this could eventually result in some great content being lost.

So, if your favourite film or show has a physical copy available that you do not already own, it's probably time to pick one up. One day, you may ge glad that you did.


About the Creator

Kristy Anderson

Passionate About all things Entertainment!

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