Streaming services for TV shows and movies have become the dominant form of watching television overseas and are beginning to make headways into Africa as well. But while the advent of streaming will be becoming more common in the coming years in country’s like ours, what was essentially the golden age of streaming is almost already over, and unless you’ve been using Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime for the past few years, it seems like you’re going to miss it.
Now what exactly is this streaming dream or golden age? Well, in simple terms it was the amount of content services, especially Netflix, had over the past ten years or so that they’re beginning to lose now due to the rise in competing platforms from the same companies that used to be the content providers. You see, especially in Netflix’s case, the streaming service was (and still is) the dominant streaming service in the world over the past ten year’s , only growing each year as more users around the globe signed up, while those in the USA “cut the cord” on their cable TV bundles and opted for Netflix instead. Netflix’s size and influence meant that if you made a show and wanted more people to watch it, chances were either you would wait for Netflix to call you and tell you they wanted your show on their platform, or you might even seek them out and offer your content for a deal. This led to the company having a multitude of deals and partnerships, ranging from brand new hit cable shows or old box sets of classic sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. Expansion deals from smaller completing streaming services like Showtime and Starz also added to Netflix’s portfolio and that added to that golden age factor we’re talking about. If you had Netflix , you likely had access to almost everything you wanted from every channel you wanted whether instantly or eventually. It’s part of the whole appeal that streaming services had all this time and even here in Africa if you had a basic internet connection, large content libraries could make streaming tear you away from piracy as you could watch almost anything you want for a reasonable price per month and not have to deal with all the dangers, struggles and you know, illegality of piracy.
Except now that appeal is dying each day as every major movie studio, cable network or film media house in the US is deciding to start it’s own streaming service to either compete with or undercut Netflix and Co.. We have Disney+, HBO Max, NBC’s upcoming Peacock, the BET streaming service, and even niche products like Apple TV+, DC Universe and so on. Every big media house wants their piece of the pie and to make sure they get you to pay for their platform, their removing their content from Netflix, Hulu and other previously established contenders. Disney + is easily the biggest example of this, as Netflix housed loads of Disney content from their classic animated and family movies to their Marvel and Star Wars movies. In fact, it even went into partnership with Disney, spawning shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Yet now that Disney+ exists, all those movies are being revoked on set timelines while the marvel Netflix shows have already been cancelled. Disney+ is even doing the same to sister streaming service Hulu, cancelling bigger projects like the Runaways and the planned Ghost Rider series, while seemingly letting the platform be home to lesser known Marvel based shows instead. Services like NBC’s Peacock will take back shows like 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine while HBO Max will obviously be taking back Game of Thrones, but also any Warner-based media including Friends which the service is essntiall banking on alongside tons of other classic shows, all the content from the CW like Arrow, Supernatural and Riverdale, and all the troves of Warner Brothers movies you could possibly ask for. And that’s not to say Netflix or Amazon are just taking all this lying down. In fact the companies are now spending billions in creating original content to fill out those gaps, with examples like the former’s Narcos and the latter’s The Boys being prime examples of original shows capable of keeping you invested in the platforms. At this rate everyone will have their killer show, and if you want all of them you’ll end up having to pay for all the services as well, which essentially kills the whole price bargain advantage that streaming services are also supposed to have (though amusingly enough if you paid for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+,HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and even Apple TV Plus, you would pay around USD$60,which is still less than what people pay for a DSTV premium package, so if you’re still capable of paying for that, here’s some food for thought).
The saddest part about all this however, is that this death of streaming utopia will likely happen before most Zimbabweans even have the chance to really try out streaming services. We’ve already been slow to that adoption anyway as only certain services are available here and even then, the cost of internet plus or currency and monetary crises don’t exactly help when it comes to smoothing out the burdens of using a streaming service. In fact, that’s the main problem, streaming is still a burden for most people, we again go back to the age-old tale of Zimbabwe not having enough infrastructure and the necessary ecosystems to support these products on a wider scale hence streaming services are a niche product despite local companies like TelOne and Econet trying to start their own. Perhaps when that hurdle is overcome, perhaps when streaming becomes easier, those same companies along with other continental players like Showmax will get better deals that combine some of the best shows from all the big western streaming services, and that will make the blow of their appeal fading nonexistent. But for now, it’s a sad day to think that most of us will never get to experience streaming at it’s best, and again, we just have to be okay with that.
What streaming service do you use? Which one would you like to try out? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and on our socials