The future of streaming

The recent cancellations of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, two of Netflix’s Marvel shows, suggests a trend that the streaming giant is reducing its reliance on third-party properties. If they continue in this direction, there will be less of a need to make expensive contracts and finicky license agreements with companies such as Marvel, and we should expect to see more intellectual properties owned directly by Netflix.

As is evident from their increasing output in the last few years, more and more shows and films in the Netflix catalogue will have the ‘Netflix Original’ tag, and whether that is good or bad likely depends on personal preference. Many of Netflix’s original TV shows have largely been successful – think of Bojack Horseman, Dear White People, or Glow – but these are vastly outnumbered by a constantly updated slew of mediocre to terrible series. Repeatedly, a Netflix original is released, advertised persistently for a week or two on the home screen, and then is completely forgotten about, occasionally popping up again in your recommended section despite completely conflicting with your usual tastes.

Netflix original films are in an arguably more dire state, with only a select few deserving any commendation. Even A-list casts can’t save films like Bright from being slated by reviewers. When the streaming platform is able to pick up films that have little potential for success in traditional theatrical release, perhaps the harshest critique of the platform is that direct-to-Netflix films is the new direct-to-DVD.

If Netflix is evolving so drastically, what does this mean for the consumer? There are plenty of alternative streaming platforms to choose from, including Hulu or Amazon Prime Video, but the latter especially is also focusing on original shows of its own. YouTube Premium is now trying to establish itself as a viable alternative, but as a recent addition it has a very lacklustre library as of yet. Then there is Disney+, which is set to be released in 2019 and will be home to all Disney-owned programmes, from their animated films to upcoming Star Wars shows.

For many, Netflix has always been the default streaming service, but soon this may no longer be the case. Picking and choosing multiple preferred platforms might become the norm, so that having a selection of streaming choices in a household could replace subscription TV packages provided by the likes of Virgin Media or Sky. What might be difficult is finding a place to watch any originally non-streaming shows. For instance, if Netflix does away with its selection of BBC shows and they are no longer available on iPlayer, physical copies would be the last resort. A certainty is that the streaming industry is much different now to what it was a few years ago, and in another few years it will have changed again.

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April 2021
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