Opinion | There are way too many streaming services

By Rachel Soloff, Senior Staff Columnist

Television has been one of the only saving graces to distract our minds from the ongoing pandemic and firestorm of politics right now. Between “Tiger King” on Netflix at the beginning of the pandemic and “WandaVision” on Disney+, streaming TV has become a cultural event and one of the only things keeping us sane. The only problem is that it’s hard to keep up.

There are way too many streaming services at this point. The first streaming services were appealing because they let people watch their favorite shows without paying cable prices. Recently, though, there has been an influx of new highly specific streaming services that have been purchasing the rights of shows and spreading them out, making people spend more and more money on different sites in order to watch their favorite shows. These streaming services suck customers in with advertisements for their original content without customers realizing they don’t care about the other shows on the platform. Streaming seemed like a good alternative to cable to many but has now become oversaturated, and subscribing to multiple streaming sites is almost as expensive as cable.

Paramount+, the new CBS streaming service, costs $10 a month and launched just last week. The service boasts new original shows along with old Nickelodeon shows like “Spongebob” and a potential “iCarly” reunion show. The Discovery Channel just launched a streaming service called Discovery+ that includes TLC, HGTV and the Food Network. Both Paramount+ and Discovery+ have highly specific content. It just seems like these channels are losing viewers and are trying to keep with the times by making a streaming service in an already overly saturated market.

These streaming services are also buying up or regaining their old content from Netflix and other already established streaming services in order to lure people to their new sites. HBO Max bought “Friends” and Peacock bought “The Office,” taking away two of Netflix’s most-watched shows. This seems like a very lazy way for these streaming services to get more viewers and increase revenue by buying popular shows, and it makes people search all over and fork over more money just to find the content they truly want.

We are also currently in a pandemic in which money is tight for many people. Not everyone has the luxury to purchase more and more streaming services just for the entertainment they want. It’s completely unnecessary to keep moving people’s favorite shows around and make them choose which places they want to spend their money during a financially rough time.

This is not to say that there isn’t great original content. Some people subscribe to these streaming services just for shows that have received critical acclaim, such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu or “The Mandalorian” on Disney+. Besides this, there is often a lack of other good content. This is probably why these streaming services over-advertise their original content to make up for the fact that their other content is lacking. Hulu often pushes its original content so hard that people will subscribe to watch the advertised shows but then are disappointed at Hulu’s selection of other movies or shows. If you want better content, you’ll have to pay more for an add-on, making you fork over more money for something that was supposed to be the cheaper alternative.

As more streaming services enter the market, they start to defeat one of the original appeals of streaming, which is that it is a cheaper alternative to cable. Sometimes you can end up with a larger bill than you would with cable when subscribing to multiple streaming services. This is especially true when these services hike up their prices — like Netflix, who increased its prices during the pandemic — and it’s not even worth it if you’re not watching all of the content you’re paying for. Not to mention the price of Wi-Fi has been increasing, meaning that you may end up paying more than you did with cable to begin with. For example, if you subscribe to standard Netflix, Hulu with no ads, Disney+ and HBO Max in addition to your Wi-Fi, it will cost about $90 every month. This can really take a toll on your bank account.

Currently, we are in a streaming war with all of the major companies fighting for dominance in this already oversaturated market, but in the end, the consumers are the losers. Consumers just want good content and are willing to pay for it, even if it’s on a million different streaming services. With TV and movies being one of the greatest distractions against a world of chaos, companies have capitalized on this.

Hopefully, in the next couple of years, when the streaming wars have settled and life is back to normal, the streaming services will improve and find out what consumers really want. Maybe they’ll combine or condense their content so more people can find what they’re looking for. Unfortunately, it seems like for now, people will continue to pay for lackluster content on too many streaming platforms.

Rachel Soloff writes primarily about the entertainment industry and social justice. Write to her at [email protected]