Streaming for Dollars
Blockbuster’s Super Bowl commercial, followed by reactivation of its website in March, and the rumored reopening of five outlets in the LA/San Diego area had plenty of people buzzing in recent months.
The best I can determine, it was a combination of hype and imaginations run amok. Even I thought it was for real after coming across this story in March. It included this supposed quote: “I’m sick of all this streaming, man. I don’t know anyone that watches Netflix anymore. It’s all about the Blu-Ray.”
However, when I went back to check the item later, I read all the way to the end. That’s when I saw that the writer concluded, “Who will emerge victorious in the entertainment arena? Only time will tell, but as of now, none of this article is true at all.”
Old Ideas Resurface
Actually, the return of video rental stores isn’t a preposterous idea. Not with everything from Barnes & Noble’s resurgence to a fascination with vinyl recordings and typewriters lately.
While our Blockbuster outlets disappeared long ago, we still check out DVDs periodically from the public library.
A few months ago we decided to take another trip through a previously viewed BBC series. We watched the first season before checking Amazon Prime to see if they carried it.
They did, so we decided to watch the rest online. That is, until we actually watched several episodes of season 2. After bearing with interminable advertising interruptions, I told my wife, “I’ll go pick up the DVDs again.”
We watched the rest of seasons 2-4 happily, without commercial interruption.
Streaming Ads: No Warning
This mirrored our experience last year with another movie series we like. We thought since the titles were online, we could stream them instead of checking out the DVDs from the library. Until we watched one of the films and dealt with blocks of four or five minutes worth of ads.
Then, you guessed it … back to the library. It’s one thing to have to deal with real-life advertising on TV programs, but at least the ads show up during predictable breaks in the action. With streaming, they usually appear without warning.
Aside from the irritating commercials that populate streaming services, after using several since 2020 I have formed another impression: they are cut from the same “bait and switch” cloth as used car lots.
I’m talking about the services that expect more money on top of the monthly fee they already charge. Or the ones that are ostensibly free, but only for about half (or less) of the content.
After enjoying half a dozen episodes of a particularly interesting History Channel series earlier this year, we learned that we couldn’t watch any more programs without ponying up additional cash.
We refused. We did manage to catch a couple more when they showed up on a “free for one week” option on a different streaming service.
The tough thing to predict is what will happen when the dust settles from the streaming wars. As everyone from the Discovery Channel to Disney has discovered, putting up content at affordable prices isn’t a guarantee everyone will beat a path to your door.
Could that fact contain the seeds of Blockbuster’s revival (even though the company badly misjudged the move to streaming, which was so pronounced even Netflix will stop mailing DVDs in late September)? With not even Netflix’s future secure, it will be interesting to see if stone-age viewing makes a comeback.