I’m sad about the news that Disney plans to end its relationship with Netflix and create its own streaming service, because it leads to the balkanization of media access.
I felt the same way when my part-time employer, CBS, which has its own premium online access service, withheld its channels from the DirecTV Now streaming service until the network and DirecTV came to a recent agreement. And I am hopeful, but not certain, that Facebook’s planned efforts to empower news organizations to set up a firewall for its users will result in a bundling deal that gives users access to hundreds of newspapers with a single monthly or annual subscription fee.
I don’t mind paying for news and entertainment, but I don’t want to be nickeled and dimed, nor do I want to have to create a separate subscription to every newspaper, magazine, entertainment channel or movie studio. What I want instead is what users get with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple Music and other services that offer an extensive library of content for a single and reasonable fee.
I consume a lot of online news and I do have subscriptions to a few papers including the New York Times Sunday print edition, which also comes with online access, and the print edition of the Mercury News that comes not only with access to its own online service but also to the Washington Post website and app. In 2014, the Washington Post announced that it was partnering with near 100 papers, including this news organization, the St. Louis Post Dispatch and Dallas Morning News to enable their subscribers to access the Post’s online content.
As I surf the web I often come across articles from papers around the country – sometimes in small cities – that have their own pay wall and it annoys me that I must either forgo those stories or subscribe to a paper that I’m not likely to read on a regular basis. As I said, I’m happy to support journalism by paying an annual fee, but I want it to be a single fee, not a hodge-podge of subscriptions.
This is even more true when it comes to entertainment. An argument can be made that people are attracted to certain newspapers based on their locality, quality and coverage, but I rarely even think about the studio that produces the movies I watch or the TV network behind the shows I enjoy. In fact, in today’s world of digital video recorders, I often don’t even know what channel I’m watching or when the program aired. I just search for the title or cast and let the DVR handle the rest.
That works out well, except when my search lands on a show that’s broadcast on a network I don’t subscribe to. My Xfinity bundle, for example, includes HBO but I recently wanted to watch a single episode of a Showtime program and was asked to purchase a $10 a month subscription (which I later canceled) for the privilege. And that’s with cable, where they do have bundle deals, only in my opinion, the bundles that include multiple premium networks are far too expensive, especially if you’re not a frequent viewer of some of those networks.
I’m happy with both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, because of the range of movies and shows from their partners along with the original content from their own studios. Although Netflix has far more content, Amazon Prime Video may be a better value when you consider all the other things you get from a $99 a year Amazon Prime membership, including two-day shipping, music and other services. And, with Amazon Video, those shows that are not part of the bundle are available to rent or buy, so you have access to an expansive library of entertainment if you’re willing to pay.
But there are so many other “over-the-top” internet entertainment services out there and I can’t possibly subscribe to them all. I love indy films, which is why I’m tempted to subscribe to Fandor, but I don’t watch enough of them to justify another $10 a month or $90 for a one-year subscription.
I have an Amazon Echo, which I’ve linked to my Spotify Premium account and my Tune-In account. I love Spotify because, like most of its major competitors, it has a vast library of music. For me, it would be worth the $10 a month for an ad-free Spotify Premium account but, for $15 a month, I’m able to share my plan with up to five additional family members. There is also a $4.99 a month student plan.
I often use my Echo to listen to news and am pleased that, through Tune-In and iHeart Radio, it gives me free access to an enormous number of radio stations around the world as well as to CNN. But I also want to be able to listen to the audio of MSNBC and, for that, I had to pay another $9.99 a month or $99 a year for a premium subscription. Sure, it comes with other premium content, but I’m not interested in listening to those other channels so I’m paying $100 for the sound track of a single TV network that I can listen to when away from home, that I can watch for free as part of my basic cable subscription.
However we pay for it, we certainly have a lot more options then when I was a kid when there was one or two newspapers per city, three national TV networks and a small number of local channels and radio stations but, with the exception of the newspapers, they were all free and available to all.
Published at Thu, 10 Aug 2017 14:00:52 +0000