Living in the age of the internet means that we have more choices at our fingertips than ever before. Whether we want to watch movies, listen to music and audiobooks, or play video or casino games, we have tens of thousands of choices just a few clicks away. All is not constant or simple in the landscape of online entertainment, however. The shifting sands of industry and competition can make some aspects of online entertainment less promising than it once appeared, and in some industries, this problem seems to be getting worse.
The biggest early name that demonstrated the potential for the evolution of legal online entertainment has to be Netflix. Originally founded in 1997, the company was built on the idea of media delivery via mail. As high-speed internet became increasingly standard, this concept was raised to new heights, with Netflix introducing streaming media in 2007. While not the first online streaming system, Netflix popularized the idea, gaining steam and even replacing people’s existing cable television subscriptions at a fraction of the cost.
As streaming on the likes of Netflix and Spotify became more popular, it was inevitable that the market would be filled with imitators. On a competitive level, this is a good thing, as greater competition means companies competing to raise the bar, lower prices, and offer opportunities that other services did not. Sometimes, this worked out great, other times, it only threw wrenches into the works. For a better explanation of how and why we need to focus on the different forms of media.
Different Systems, Different Approaches
The most complex and often negative evolutions to online media access are tied to video streaming. There was a time for a few years after Netflix took off when its place as the titan of television and movie streaming was undisputed. With such success, shows and movies flocked to the platform, since it offered new opportunities not available anywhere else.
Over time, other services like Hulu and Amazon TV would enter the fray, offering similar systems but initially without the libraries of the Netflix juggernaut. By offering financial incentives to the developers and publishers of certain shows, big hits like The Office would leave Netflix. The most popular shows would take subscribers with them, creating an issue of splitting libraries into smaller chunks. Today, to get everything a TV enthusiast wants, it can be necessary to run multiple active subscriptions, which costs more and requires a frustrating amount of platform juggling.
In music, Spotify enjoyed similar overwhelming and centralized success when it launched in 2006. Integrating easily with mobile and mobile data, Spotify stole the show for millions, but it wasn’t great for those on the production side of the equation. There are many performers on Spotify, specifically those in the indie space, who barely earn anything from the platform. Again, this led to fragmentation, with services like Qobuz and Tidal paying their artists more, but making engagement more difficult for customers.
In video games, this pattern repeats with the early dominance of Valves’ online platform called Steam. Steam has long set the standard for online video game purchases, but their system is notoriously poorly designed, and they only pay developers 70% of the money made from a sale. Newer services, like the Epic Game Store, boast an 88/12 split with developers. This is huge, so an exodus from Steam has been inevitable. There is one unusually big positive here as well, in that prices on other platforms are often much lower than on Steam. Epic, in particular, routinely gives out free AAA titles like Prey and the new Tomb Raider series.
Reaching more into a collaborative front is the online casino industry, which traces its roots back to 1996. While these casinos do sometimes offer unique experiences, the overwhelming majority of libraries are shared in some way with other online casinos. Instead of fighting via game selection, these compete by providing players with specials like casino no deposit bonus offers. Working with free cash and spins, these systems help draw players to the websites through more individually appreciable means. For the casino industry, in other words, the choice isn’t about what you don’t get, it’s about what you do get.
The overwhelming caveat or modifying factor to the complex modern online entertainment market is that choice is so personalized, that none of the above caveats might apply to you. For users after a specific type of show or music, one system could easily fill all of their needs. For others, getting what they want could mean seeking out any and all systems available. In a nutshell, this is the double-edged sword of modern media, in that it is potentially incredibly easy or overwhelmingly frustrating. That said, diversity in these businesses is only going to grow more pronounced, so let’s just hope some solutions might arrive sooner rather than later.