The streaming wars have begun and users are in for a bad time

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At the weekend I had an urge to watch House and that meant searching for a platform that was streaming the show locally.

This was my first stumbling block as neither Netflix nor Showmax offers the show for streaming.

Thankfully Amazon Prime Video has the series available for streaming and as I had not yet made use of my free seven day trial, I lucked out.

Despite my odd strike of good luck this entire event presented me with an interesting problem: which streaming services do I really need? The answer I arrived at was unsettling to say the least because I came to the conclusion that I need all of them.

Last year this choice was easier thanks to limited availability but as more choice has been introduced I find myself having to decide between what I need and what I don’t.

This problem, however, has no real easy solution and it’s only going to get worse.

The Mandalorian Pirate

Last week Disney launched Disney+ which, while introducing a new platform to watch originally produced Disney content and legacy content, is not easily accessible to South Africans or indeed a number of other citizens around the world.

This produces an interesting problem as folks who are not lucky enough to live in a Disney+ launch country are unable to watch new shows such as The Mandalorian. As such, folks around the world have responded through the only means they know how – piracy.

It’s not just The Mandalorian being pirated en masse. A quick glance at the top 100 torrents on The Pirate Bay over 48 hours reveals that the majority of titles come from the Disney stable. Is Disney to blame for this problem? No, but it is the first notable victim of a problem we’ve seen coming for a long time already.

Original content from Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+ and more is easily found on torrent sites.

The price to (push) play

For all the streaming services I currently use I pay R385.21 per month plus my internet connectivity which costs R700 per month bringing my monthly spend on video streaming to R1 085.21.

As it stands I spend more on video entertainment than a DStv Premium subscription (which includes Showmax and DStv Now) costs.

True, my internet connectivity serves multiple purposes including work and gaming but generally speaking I am making use of streaming services on said connection for the vast majority of the time and as such I feel that warrants including it in my monthly spend.

While something could (and should) be said for the cost of connectivity in South Africa, that fee is not the one that is going to go up because despite having access to Netflix, Showmax, YouTube Premium and now Amazon Prime Video, I don’t think I am done signing up for streaming services.

Just two weeks ago I signed up for Apple TV+. Why? I honestly cannot answer that aside from saying The Morning Show looked interesting but after discovering it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped, I promptly cancelled the service.

Despite cancelling after over a week of use, it still cost me R84.99 to find out for myself that The Morning Show was nothing but celebrity window dressing. I have no interest in the other content available on Apple TV+ but that’s hardly an issue unique to Apple.

My Netflix “Continue watching” selection is basically just a collection of shows, movies and documentaries that never really captured my attention. While Netflix has some truly remarkable shows and movies, there is also a lot of crap as well.

Showmax suffers from the same problem because, while my mom might enjoy the nostalgia of Egoli’s back catalogue, I do not.

However, I enjoy Mr Robot and Westworld, and Showmax has that. I enjoy Netflix Originals for the most part so I have to subscribe to watch that content.

Everything and nothing

Unlike Spotify or a music streaming service, streaming platforms aren’t able to offer the same content due to licensing deals.

This means that because of these licensing deals content may not be available on your platform of choice or even in your region despite that content belonging to a certain streaming platform. Compounding the issue is firms like HBO, Disney and even NBC eyeing the Netflix pie and striking up their own streaming services.

Ultimately we are moving toward a sector where no streaming service has everything you want and every streaming service has a show or movie you want to watch.

Right now this might not seem like that big of an issue but what happens if the next big blockbuster starring Keanu Reeves is only available on Disney+ and only in select regions?

I know what I’d do and I am sure I’m not the only one with this point of view.

Which leads me to my final point – the internet is a different beast compared to before streaming services captured the world’s attention.

Back then a VPN was tricky to understand but these days they are increasingly common. And folks know that browsing the internet with a VPN is a good way of hiding what they’re doing.

Add piracy back into this mix and you’ll have a hard time putting the lid back on that Pandora’s box. Should these streaming purveyors fix their eyes on the VPN providers – many of which already advertise allowing torrent traffic on its service – hell, I would not be surprised if we start seeing a rise in private VPNs being set up.

By giving us an abundance of choice, streaming services have given us no choice but to subscribe to every new service just in case something new comes out and we miss it.

This is not just some aspect of fear of missing out but also the fact that in 2019, spoilers are rampant forcing folks to watch a movie or series in a certain amount of time or risk having it ruined by Johnny on the internet.

Of course, we have to state that piracy is wrong and illegal and you really shouldn’t do it.

However, something is going to break soon and I have a feeling it won’t be my wallet.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.