This is the Single Biggest Problem With Every Streaming Service to Date

By Sam Gibbs on at

Streaming is all the rage. No one seems to want to own anything anymore when it comes to media, or is it that no one wants to sell it to you? Either way, streaming is where it's at, whether it's Spotify, Netflix, LoveFilm or Now TV. But there's a big problem with all of them, and it's just reared its ugly head again.

It's all about access. Netflix is losing some 1,800 titles from its streaming library, including a load of South Park and old Bond films. As we've heard from others like LoveFilm before, this churn of movies and TV shows is apparently normal. Deals for access to the content expire and aren't renewed, which means that TV shows and films get pulled from the service, whether you like it or not. The same goes for songs on the likes of Spotify. If an artist decides that he or she doesn't want their songs available for streaming, or more likely their record label decides, then gone from Spotify the songs are.

Now, it's normally not that big a deal, I guess; it's usually the old stuff that gets dumped. But it becomes a big issue if you happen to be watching what's just been ejected, say you're halfway through a series for instance. Then your ubiquitous access to content through streaming doesn't look all that rosy. It wouldn't happen if you bought the stuff on disc, but then you didn't need to, because you were paying good money for a streaming service that promised you access to these shows.

It's certainly not entirely the fault of the streamers; the movie and TV studios and content distributors hold the reins on this one. It is big media that pretty much dictates the terms of these deals and their limited shelf lives. The big problem is that, as we're increasingly moving towards a position where no one actually owns anything anymore, just rents it (whether you really did in the first place is another issue for another time), we're at the mercy of these big-money deals. We have absolutely no power to control what happens on that front, and it's not like you can cache a whole series of something for watching later.

Although they've been around for a while, streaming services are still in their infancy compared to say, TV and cable/satellite networks. That means they're still fighting with the content providers for dominance. Unfortunately, big media's just realised how successful and massive streaming could be, which means their favourable, low-cost deals, which were struck when they were first approached for content, are being revised to be much, much more costly when renewal comes up. Just like landlords in the London rental market, where demand far out-strips supply, they're jacking up the prices and rinsing the tenants.

What does that mean for you and I, the lowly consumer? It means we're going to have to get used to stuff disappearing, or only being available for short periods of time. If you want access to something indefinitely, even if you subscribe to a bunch of streaming services, the only way to be truly sure it'll still be there when you want it again is to buy it on disc, which is looking pretty backwards these days, don't you think?

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