We solved piracy until we didn’t

Hey! Remember back in the mid to late 00s when pirating movies and TV shows was easier than trying to obtain them legitimately because you either had to buy expensive box sets or hope the movie you wanted was still in print? Good times.

Then along came Netflix, who solved this problem overnight: Streaming movies. Pay Netflix one low fee per month, you now have access to a bunch of TV shows and movies you otherwise would have had to pirate to gain access to. BRILLIANT.

At the time, yes, there was a notable competing service: Hulu. But (if I remember correctly) Hulu was also half the price of Netflix, and was actually free if you were okay with ads. So combining Hulu and Netflix didn’t break the bank. It was a prosperous time: A large swath of TV and movies, at your fingertips, for not a lot of dosh. The piracy problem was solved. Give people what they want at a low price and make it easy to access? Winning formula.

Of course, what goes up must come down, and as time rolled on, studios got greedy and began wanting their own piece of the streaming pie, so they broke off and pulled their catalog from Netflix to make their own streaming app with it, charging a nominal fee to access it. Thus, the beginnings of subscription fatigue of having to start and stop a bunch of subscriptions depending on what you wanted to watch. Made even worse by TV shows and IPs that are fractured across multiple services, so you can’t watch it all under one service.

The fact that this webpage exists is a testament to how far we’ve fallen. You need eight, EIGHT different streaming services to watch the Pokemon TV shows and movies, start to finish.

The people found a way to at least somewhat navigate these choppy waters, and that was with password sharing. You have Netflix. One of your friends has Hulu. Another one of your friends has Max. The lot of you can exchange credentials and you”re not paying through the nose for a fuckzillion services anymore. Don’t get me wrong, this sucks. But at least it softens the financial impact.

…until Netflix cracked down on this and got rewarded for it. Now everyone else is scrambling to copy Netflix and crack down on password sharing.

(This is also why I have zero faith for “voting with your wallet”. Consumers have demonstrated time and again that they will tolerate an absolutely insane amount of abuse before they finally pump the brakes and say enough is enough.)

So you can’t password share anymore. There’s more streaming services than there are Starbucks locations. Piracy sure is looking a lot more attractive again because of all this. Why bounce between eight services to watch the complete Pokemon series when someone has taken the care and attention to make a torrent that has everything in one place that you can watch at your leisure?

Hell, the music industry–much to my chagrin–still has this solved. You have Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, and whatever else but for the most part their catalogs are the same, you just choose which one you prefer based on what they offer (Price/Recommendation algorithms/Availability of lossless, etc/Works with your device) and you’re off to the races. You don’t have to subscribe to Spotify, then to Apple Music, then to YTM just to listen to Taylor Swift’s discography.

You’d think the studios would have an awakening, realize how far they’ve fallen, and cut this out, no? Bahahaha. That’d make too much sense, of course not. Their solution is to just go after the pirates even harder.

Because god forbid people want to not suffer subscription fatigue just to watch their favorite series from start to finish. Password sharing at the very least made it so you didn’t lose money from trying to navigate these waters, just time trying to figure out everything. Worse yet, while all this is going on, the studios and services are squeezing ever harder: Prices are constantly going up. Services are now trying to double dip because they’re pricing ad-free plans out of reach (when those used to be the default), thus steering you into both paying for a service and being subjected to a ton of ads.

Really feels like that was the plan all along: Get us all invested. Then slowly boil the proverbial frog because most consumers are just going to shrug and say “whatever” to a $1-3 price increase. Slowly turn up the temperature. Try to go after the exits (piracy) so that by the time people realize they’re cooking they can’t get out. And then consumers are trapped.

This also feels like a byproduct of the mentality that the line must always go up and financial growth is always expected. You’re simply not allowed to be comfortable where you’re at with obscene profits and enough money to keep the lights on for decades. Nope. Reached market saturation? Better start squeezing your existing customers for even more money until they begin running away.

The video streaming clustershag is fueled by both. Greed. Capitalism stating you can’t ever be comfortable and you must be growing constantly, even if market saturation states that is impossible without exploiting existing customers.

Unfortunately, I just don’t think this is ever going to change until we hit a point where consumers have had enough and slam the brakes. The only language these fat cat execs speak is money. And so long as the money keeps rolling in for the heinous shit they keep ramming down everyone’s gullets, they’re going to continue pushing their boundaries.