“Are You Still Watching?”: The Hegemony of Streaming Services
February 17, 2021
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and frequent lockdowns, the world is adapting and changing its ways, and the entertainment business is no exception. While most theaters closed, a new day of streaming is at hand. Out with exclusive and glamorous premieres for the latest films, in with pajamas and popcorn on the couch. The age of streaming is upon us.
Production companies have released recent big movies on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, HBO Max, AppleTV+, and Peacock. Netflix, once high and mighty in the streaming industry, finds itself awash in a sea of competitors. Though Netflix originals have earned over 50 Emmys and eight Oscars, Amazon Originals have clinched over 15 Emmys and three Oscar wins. This year, HBO Max, created in May, 2020, is also a tough competitor, as new movies from Warner Brothers Productions will be released on the burgeoning streaming platform in conjunction with release dates in theaters. Among the titles to be released on HBO Max this year are a Suicide Squad sequel; Godzilla vs. Kong; Dune; The Matrix 4; In the Heights; Cry Macho; The Conjuring 3; Space Jam: A New Legacy; and The Many Saints of Newark, a prequel to popular crime television series The Sopranos.
While these titles are sure to attract more subscribers, HBO Max’s 8.6 million U.S. subscribers still significantly trail Netflix’s 74 million. While HBO Max is one of the most expensive streaming services at $14.99 per month, subscribing could be regarded as an excellent investment, considering the price of a trip to the movie theater will almost invariably exceed $14.99.
Another new streaming platform that has risen to the top is Disney+, released in November, 2019 and currently boasting 74 million subscribers in the U.S. Its popularity has grown in part because many of its titles were previously available exclusively on VHS and DVD, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo, Bambi, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan. In addition, thanks to Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, ESPN, Pixar, and the History Channel, there is no lack of variety on the platform. New shows and movies have quickly made their way into the program, including hits such as The Mandalorian; WandaVision; Mulan; Soul; Highschool Musical: The Musical: The Series, and many more. On Disney’s Investor Day in 2020, the company announced the future release of over 50 titles, at least half of which will be available on Disney+. As well, announcements foreshadowing additions to the Marvel and Star Wars cinematic universes are sure to bring in more subscribers and further boost popularity.
With these new developments, the question is: are streaming services bringing in a new age of movie-watching and perhaps the end of going to movie theaters? Many people are happy to no longer watch movies in a crowded room with someone kicking the back of their seats. Nevertheless, pandemic-related costs continue to force production companies to slow their pace, thus so long as release dates continue to hang in the balance, streaming services’ futures will remain uncertain.