The Unstoppable Rise of Streaming Services Will Bankrupt Us All
At some point this autumn, you’ll sign up for Apple TV+, Apple’s new streaming service. The launch date hasn’t been announced yet, but it will be, and you’ll get it. It’s launching with big fancy shows from proper household-name talent—Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Jennifer Aniston—and you’ll sign up. Even if you end up only watching three episodes of See, its post-apocalyptic Jason Momoa vehicle that is obviously going be awesome because it’s a post-apocalyptic Jason Momoa vehicle, you won’t feel like you can get rid of it because at some point you’ll almost certainly get round to watching some of its more highbrow offerings.
At another yet-to-be-determined point, probably in the autumn (it’s launching in the US on 12 November), Disney will launch its new streaming service, Disney+, which you’ll also get, because everyone will. It’s launching with Star Wars and Marvel TV series, as well as the entire archives of both of those behemoths, the Disney and Pixar back catalogues and, thanks to the acquisition of Fox, every episode of The Simpsons. Plus, the double-coloned teenstravaganza High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. You’ll get it. We’ll all get it. Maybe not for High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, but we’ll all get it.
And, towards the end of the year, the BBC and ITV are launching their new streaming service, BritBox. At first you’ll think you don’t want it, but then loads of BBC stuff will come off Netflix, and you’ll have a half-drunk Christmassy craving to watch something really specific, and sign up, and never really think about it again, and £5.99 will come out of your bank account forever.
And there’s more—Shudder (for horror fans), Hayu (reality TV), DC Universe (already going in the US and launching over here at some point), Quibi (something or other coming soonish, Guillermo Del Toro is involved), Warner Media’s upcoming one... Where does it end? How many streaming services do we need? Loads of households already have Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV—which they signed up for in order to see the final season of Breaking Bad in 2013, American Gods in 2017 and the final season of Game Of Thrones earlier this year respectively, intending on each occasion to cancel the direct debit once the show was over, something nobody has ever managed.
Sign up for these three new ones as well and you’re looking at, what, six hundred quid (or P38,000) a year vanishing from your bank account in exchange for an endless series of menus to navigate and dither over endlessly?
Yet it’s really hard to imagine just… cancelling any of them. What if you get rid of Netflix and then something really good arrives on it, and everyone at work is talking about it and you can’t join in? What an appalling thought. If someone asks you who you like better, Roman from Succession or Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye—a stupid, stupid question that doesn’t mean anything, Roman is fictional and funny while Karamo is real and so nice, and NoHo Hank from Barry is better than anyone else on telly so shut up, just shut up—being able to answer costs about £150.
We’re all going to die broke, direct debiting ourselves into financial oblivion, because everything feels essential. It’s got deeply, deeply silly, but nobody wants to be left behind.
What’s the solution? Peeking in people’s windows? Pooling passwords and hoping you never get caught? Buying a VCR off eBay? Lying constantly?
Or do we all just collectively decide to get heavily into EastEnders and treat that like it's prestige TV? Then, when anyone says something like, “Oh my god, have you seen The Mandalorian?”, just look them dead in the eye and say, “I liked the bit when Ian Beale fell over.”