A market can only get so packed. There are only so many consumers and they can only consume so much. Crank out too much too quickly and you might sacrifice quality or overwhelm your would-be customer. Do either of those and you increase the chances of them jumping ship.
A primary example of this was the video game crash of the early 80s. Back then, games were cheap to make, at least cheaper than they are now. So ATARI flooded the market, cranking out game after game after game. Surprise, none of them were very good and there were too many of them. Now we have all this stock of E.T. for the ATARI that no one bought and we’re out a shit ton of money. Oh no, the market has collapsed!
Much the same thing happened with television in the late 90s and early 2000s. If you bought a full package of cable, you would get access to hundreds of channels. How many of them would you actually watch? Only about four. Are you looking for something specific and you don’t know where it is yet? Have fun looking! Oh, sorry! You missed the broadcast by ten minutes!
Then along came the first big streaming service: Netflix. For a monthly subscription, you could watch whatever show you want at your leisure, whenever you wanted. No sifting through channels, no missing a premier. Just click and watch.
When Netflix blew up, everything changed. Blockbuster (remember that?) crashed and burned. Cable stopped being the thing the cool kid on the block had. Why bother with that when you’ve got Netflix?
Naturally, other businesses wanted a slice of that pie while it was still hot. Hulu was the big one, being the first to truly rival Netflix. Then along came a few others, like Prime Video. Some time later, we’d start to get more specialized streaming services, like Crunchyroll.
But then something happened. Then, everyone decided to start a streaming service. Cable was a dying industry, the market collapsing beneath them. No one wanted it anymore. So, what was there to do but adapt or die?
Now, there’s a streaming service for every day of the week. HBO Max, Disney+, Apple TV+, CBS All Access, HBO Now (did you really need two, HBO?), YouTube TV, FuboTV, Peacock, the list goes on and on forever! There are probably more streaming services now then there were cable channels back in the day!
On paper, that sounds great. More options for the consumer! But then you actually stop to think about it and you realize that no, this is actually really bad.
Wanna keep track of all the shows you want to watch? Well, you’ve got to keep paying for god-knows how many services! That’s ten bucks a month per streaming service! And that’s on the cheap side! And the market is only expanding! It’s like an inflating bubble!
But you know what happens to a bubble when it gets to big? Pop.
The market of streaming services is doomed to collapse. It’ll be like a gunfight in the streets. All the dozens, hundreds of markets, bleeding to death as they try to pay for shows with what little money they get from their too-few subscribers. It’ll be a bloodbath.
I’d feel bad, but at this point, the people in charge of these services don’t deserve any pity.
Who knows what’ll happen after that? Will we get back to the simple days where the streaming services were actually manageable? Will an even better alternative somehow present itself and repeat the process all over again? Only time will tell.
No matter what happens, I don’t believe the current landscape of streaming services can last. At all. Sooner or later, something’s gotta give. An oversaturated market cannot last forever. No market with that problem ever has.
Unfortunately, we’ve gone beyond the physical. So, to my sorrow, we’ll never have a repeat of the buried E.T. ATARI copies.