Last updated on January 16th, 2023 at 07:48 pm
It is done. We have been living in a golden age of entertainment for the past five years.
More TV and movies than ever before are now available in our homes thanks to the rise of streaming services.
Keeping up with every new service Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, and the rest put before us have been a thrill—and occasionally a pain.
But in recent months, we’ve noticed a shift in how many of these sites operate, and it’s obvious that the abundance of content we’ve enjoyed for the low price of a monthly subscription is about to come to an end.
The agony of that will be felt more acutely by some of us than by others.
Hollywood was a vastly different world before streaming altered its environment.
It may take a writer years to become a showrunner, and there aren’t many plum roles for a rising actor.
There was a ton of reality TV, especially on cable, but there were only a few stations dedicated to written programming.
The owners of these channels made prestige show after prestige show in an effort to get our attention while they fought hard for it.
There was a Golden Age of TV that lasted from 1999, when The Sopranos debuted, to somewhere around the middle of the 2010s.
Then followed the streaming battles, which, let’s face it, were a blast. Another golden period has passed.
In an effort to compete with major studios like Disney, Warner Brothers, and MGM, which controlled the majority of the largest franchises, Netflix began pouring money into Hollywood in an effort to amass a backlog of blockbuster hits.
But Netflix was making a lot of content and basically throwing everything at the wall to see what stuck, even though it has had trouble creating major franchises other than Stranger Things, Bridgerton, and The Witcher, which are both based on very popular book series.
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Taylor Sheridan, Premier:
This month, Taylor Sheridan showed off the latest movie in his Yellowstone Cinematic Universe at the National Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas.
The series is a big success for Paramount and, unintentionally, Peacock. And it seems that everyone else did the same.
The competing streamers all have distinct content strategies focused on things like Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and whatever cowboy shenanigans Taylor Sheridan wants to get up to, but they were also prepared to innovate in ways that were unusual prior to the streaming wars.
For underprivileged groups in particular, that experimentation was beneficial.
Since then, cable television and movie theaters have been the only options for TV and movie distribution.
Hollywood was conservative and only put money into movies and TV shows that would appeal to the most people.
This led to a lot of movies and TV shows that were mostly about men, mostly white, and very straight.
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The streaming wars gave people more ways to watch shows, which led to more action shows with female leads, comedies without a white guy or a famous comedian as the main character, and dramas with happy endings and LGBT main characters.
We like to measure the variety of entertainment by how many “firsts” there are, and in the last three years, we’ve seen more “firsts” than in the previous 12 years put together.
But these historically rare times, when there was a showrunner shortage in Hollywood because of the abundance of viable scripted content, are coming to an end.
Even if the streaming wars are still going on, there is undoubtedly a truce, and the streamers are all changing their strategies.
Because of the increased competition, it is no longer possible to just stuff amazing shows down our throats with minimal programming strategies beyond “looking neat.” They invested a lot of money into content in the hopes of gaining subscribers.
The co-CEO of Netflix, Reed Hastings, spoke about the service and streaming in general last month at The New York Times’ annual DealBook Summit.
He was clear that Netflix needed to make money, and he made it clear that he would take success wherever it came from, no matter what it meant for culture. This means he will gladly order Dave Chappelle specials “over and over again.”
Smaller, more overtly queer shows like Warrior Nun and The Babysitter’s Club should be canceled, even if they seem to do well based on the few metrics Netflix provides, even if they are so transphobic that they cause protests.
HBO Max is a more direct, if deadly, example of how the tactics change in the streaming wars. Warner Brothers
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CEO of Discovery:
David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, has made it abundantly clear that he will forgo a number of programs and films in order to save money.
Over the course of the summer and fall, dozens more movies and TV shows were abruptly removed from the service in an effort to allegedly avoid paying residuals to the people who worked on them.
The almost-finished Batgirl was put away to save money on taxes, and it would cost a lot to get it back out now for the same reason.
More programs received a similar “anything to save a buck” ax this week.
Along with The Nevers, the Joss Whedon-directed program that started out horribly before becoming compelling before going on hiatus in 2021, Westworld, which was canceled after four seasons, was taken off HBO Max.
The second half of the first season is supposedly done, but neither half will air on HBO Max.
The second season of Minx, an unexpectedly entertaining period drama about the creation of a nasty magazine for women, won’t either.
HBO Max has already renewed the program, and according to Variety, the service may be looking for another distributor.
Before streaming, it was pretty common for TV shows to end suddenly, with whole episodes being put on hold.
TV channels would prefer to air an old rerun than the final episode of a little-watched show if it meant they could sell more expensive commercials against that rerun since airtime is restricted.
Since there is endless shelf space in the world of streaming, it is theoretically irrelevant how many people watch something that has already been commissioned and created, as long as someone does.
Because of this, a pre-Zaslav The quick cancellation of shows like Swamp Thing and that 1990s Flash series was no problem for HBO Max.
But you still have to pay creators’ residuals, and Zaslav won’t do that if he thinks the number of people watching a certain show isn’t enough to cover the cost of keeping it on his service.
Also, keeping these shows on streaming services forever will almost certainly cost more in the long run.
When the Writers Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America, and the Screen Actors Guild all sign new contracts with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in 2023, streaming residuals will be one of the most important things to talk about.
And streamers won’t just try to get you to pay for a subscription; they’ll also try to sell your viewing time in exchange for ads, which every major streamer now has.
This is how they’ll pay for the rising costs of making and keeping content on these services.
So the next round of the streaming conflict won’t be about locking you into a long-term subscription with niche programming.
In order to gain attention for advertisements, it will be important to contact as many people as possible.
And it means that the Renaissance, which has primarily benefited a small number of people, is about to come to an end.