Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Is it time to get a real life?

8 Nov 2023

A few years ago, streaming services on the Internet looked like the next big thing.

As faster, cheaper forms of internet connectivity became the norm around the world it had finally become practical to use IP-based streaming as an alternative to broadcast and cable services.

Even the humble rented VHS tape or DVD was soon replaced by the likes of Netflix and people flocked to these services like bees to honey.

Life was good for those who spend several hours of each and every day surfing their sofa with a bowl of potato chips.

The streaming services they watched were as cheap as those chips and there wasn't an ad to be seen anywhere.

Fast-forward to today and things are rapidly changing, for the worse.

It seems that the happy days of affordable, quality streamed programming is coming to an end.

I've been a subscriber to Netflix for quite some time, although it's mainly for the wife's benefit because I'm usually too busy to waste time sitting passively in front of a TV set.

Yesterday, when I needed to do a bit of unwinding, I did sit down and browse the catalog though.

What a disappointment.

It appears that a huge proportion of the movies on Netflix, especially the "Netflix Originals" are foreign language productions with crappy over-dubbing and/or subtitles. Quite frankly, I'm not some foreign film buff and I find it annoying to watch material where the lip movements don't match the worlds or I have to choose between reading subtitles or watching the action.

Once you take that content out of the list then the rest is pretty crappy. There is a huge amount of repurposed TV content, some of it very old -- even in 4:3 aspect ratio! I also see that many of the titles have been there for donkey's years and weren't really worth watching the first time so I'm not going to waste time with those either.

Perhaps the worst thing is that Netflix keeps pushing the price up without offering a corresponding increase in quality content. There was a time when a "Netflix Original" was something that attracted my attention. Stranger Things is a great example. Now, content carrying that title is likely to be foreign-language or decidedly "budget" in nature.

The credit card I use to pay the monthly sub for Netflix expired last month and I haven't bothered updating the account with new details. When my subscription lapses some time this month I doubt I'll renew it. The value proposition doesn't stack up any longer.

Having said that, the wife may disagree -- so we'll see what happens.

Prime Video is the other streaming service I subscribe to. It's a whole lot cheaper than Netflix and, to be honest, has better content -- or at least content that's better aligned with my tastes. There's enough old episodes of Top Gear and The Grand Tour that I can simply keep rewatching in a circle and still be entertained. For $8 a month it's a steal.

However, I understand that Prime will be bumping its prices up again soon and if/when that happens I will recalculate the value proposition and if it doesn't stack up, I'll ditch that too.

Then we have YouTube... sigh!

Unlike Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and all the other streaming services, YouTube doesn't have to pay a single red cent for the content it streams. It's all user-created material that people upload for free.

Sure, there's a partner program whereby people like myself get a share of the ad revenues generated by that content but there's no up-front payment from YT so the costs are directly proportional to revenues and that's a fantastic advantage in any business.

Regardless of this, YouTube is ramping up pressure on creators to allow ever-more ads on their vids and they've even removed creators ability to secify what sort of ads will be run.

If you don't want to watch ads on YouTube there is the option of "Youtube Premium" but that is way more expensive than any of the other streaming services -- even though those cheaper services pay to commission their own content and pay rights-holders for showing box-office movies.

And, wouldn't you know it... YouTube is about to hike the price for that "premium" subscription as well.

Streaming started out with so much promise. You could kick SkyTV to the curb and go from paying over $100 a month for repetitive linear TV with ads -- to paying just $14 a month for all you could eat video-on-demand with some premium content. No wonder people switched in droves.

Now however, if you want a balanced and worthwhile streaming experience you'll need to subscribe to several different services and when you tote-up the amount you pay very month you end up right back where you started, paying a much bigger chunk of change than most of us can really justify.

So, as the title of today's column suggests, maybe it's time, at least for the summer, to kick these streaming services to the curb. Instead of wasting your life away on the sofa, get outside and enjoy the real world while you can. Take up a hobby, do some walking or just sit in the sun and appreciate the wonders of a warm summer's day.

You'll save money, improve your quality of life and probably live a lot longer if you do.

Once the value proposition of any product or service is destroyed, that product becomes worthless. Sadly, I fear that (at least for me) we're reaching that point with streaming services.

Carpe Diem folks!

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