Thursday, September 03, 2015
Epix deal (sadly) signals a new phase of streaming fragmentation
Netflix subscribers might have notice their queues empty a little in the coming weeks. Digital film distributor Epix ends its billion-dollar licensing deal with the streaming giant at the end of this month, and many of its biggest films – including the Hunger Games and Transformers franchises – are moving to Hulu. This is a big, risky decision for Netflix, but more troublingly, it's a sign of the growing fragmentation of the streaming marketplace.
Streaming services have long been idealized as a way to cut out DVD purchases and a cable television subscription – especially for people not in a financial position to pay for it all – but that dream rests on streaming options being concentrated and affordable. To watch all the most acclaimed shows on television and the best recent movies, you'll at least need a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Showtime Anytime, Amazon Prime... and the list continues. That could at least $50 per month. Original content like Orange is the New Black will understandably never be on a competing service, but when Catching Fire is only available on tap from specific outlets, instant universal accessibility seems out of reach.
As Bryan Bishop from The Verge puts it, there will never be a Spotify equivalent for video. Netflix and Hulu are fine offering only a limited selection of programming and hoping "the lean-back passivity of television" makes up for the gaps in their libraries. It's unfortunate, but that's how streaming media business works now.
We didn't intend for this post to be a direct promotion for our services, but it does underlie the biggest benefit of library DVD collections: everything will always be in one place – and for free.