• Josh Martin-Jones

What is the endgame for streaming?

Over the past 5 years, streaming itself has massively changed. Back at the end of 2015 – Netflix had very few “Original” titles, and the service was filled with licensed feature films and television series. As of today, Netflix’s total content library has decreased and continues to do so, however now the focus is on producing more original content than licensing other studio's titles - the ratio is drastically changing year by year, with Netflix having produced over 1,500 titles since 2013 – roughly over 200 new titles a year.

But how did streaming start? - A short summary

The very first signs of streaming comes from the release of YouTube in February 2005, since then the site has grown to have over a billion hours of video watched every day [1]. Following on from YouTube, iTunes began allowing users to purchase and download select television programs in 2005. This made way for SVOD sites like Netflix, LoveFilm and Hulu, to see a demand for online streaming which led to the eventual presence of their sites.

The very first SVOD in the UK was infact LoveFilm, initally started as a disk rental service, later known as Amazon Prime Video from 2014 onwards. The UK's first examples of AVOD were Sky Anytime and BBC iPlayer, both launched in 2007 – and have since evolved to being available on both set top boxes and also online. Later followed by All4/4oD (2007), My5 (2008), and ITV Hub (2008) - all 4 main freeview networks had VOD accesible through the internet or smart hubs. Netflix didn't arrive in the UK until 2012, but definitely changed the way we consumed television completely.

Streaming right now

If I were to pick up my phone right now to watch something, I would have a tonne of options - I could watch some gaming videos on either YouTube or Twitch, sit down and binge-watch a series on NOW TV, ITV Hub, iPlayer or Netlfix, or pehaps watch the lastest film release on Prime Video or Disney+, the options are endless - and this is great.

In recent years, we have seen Film and TV Studios moving away from licensing their titles to streaming services like Netflix and moving into the streaming world themselves, producing their own streaming hubs. Disney being the main example, who debuted Disney+ in November 2019, which now has 86.8m subscribers in 54 countries worldwide. Prior to the release of Disney+, Netflix (US) and Sky Cinema were the exclusive home to Disney streaming content, with Disney Life also acting as a home to Disney content too – offering music, books and also live streaming of the 3 UK Disney Channels (formerly Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior) - this is quite a big move as it shows studios moving away from Terrestrial TV and focusing on producing content for online only, many Disney networks worldwide are also beginning plans to remove the three kids channels, with Australia, New Zealand, Japan and many other countries following suit.

10 Years from now - where will streaming be?

Honestly - I reckon there won't be too much of a drastic change. I believe we will still have TV channels like Sky, HBO, BBC/ITV etc all still producing content for both TV and Online. The only significant change for streaming I can see happening is for theatrical releases of films. The past year has been a difficult one for everyone, and theatres have suffered a lot too, with many of its slated releases delayed to 2021/22.

Some of these features over the next year will have extremely shorter theatrical windows, with Wonder Woman 1984 being the first of many. Released last week, Wonder Woman 1984 is set to recieve its PVOD release from January 13, following four weeks in cinemas (which only includes Tier 1 and 2 locations).

The Sky deal is a clear sign of the times in the U.K. and it’s worth noting that exhibitors are keen for the arrangement to be an exception made in extraordinary circumstances rather than the rule going forward - Variety.com

Whilst it appears promising that exhibitors want an exception, until COVID is not an ongoing issue in the UK, and everywhere else. Film studios may follow suit and follow the same strategy plan as Warner Bros. Similar, they've announced plans to release all of their titles on HBO Max and in theatres on the same day in the US, startinf with Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas Day - this has been met with mixed responses however, with many in the film industry citing it as a bad move, with Christopher Nolan even calling it the "worst streaming service"

Illustration by Laemeur

Utlimately we can not predict where cinema will be once the pandemic is over, and for now it is still a guessing game. What are your thoughts? You can get in contact with me over on Twitter or leave a comment below!

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