15 Years Ago Streaming Almost Killed Piracy, Now It’s Made It Bigger Than Ever.

When Netflix first launched its online streaming service in 2007, it was a revelation that overnight completely changed the way that people consume media.  iTunes had already made huge waves the year earlier by allowing people to purchase and download movies digitally, but its impact was ultimately limited by the need to purchase films individually and keep them stored locally for playback.  Netflix made it so that anyone with an internet connection could, for a small monthly fee, access any film in the catalog with the click of a button.


When Netflix first launched its online streaming service in 2007, it was a revelation that overnight completely changed the way that people consume media.  iTunes had already made huge waves the year earlier by allowing people to purchase and download movies digitally, but its impact was ultimately limited by the need to purchase films individually and keep them stored locally for playback.  Netflix made it so that anyone with an internet connection could, for a small monthly fee, access any film in the catalog with the click of a button.

As a result of this unparalleled ease of use, people quickly became enamored with streaming, a whole cord-cutting movement formed among people sick of cable, its incredible growth clearly shown in this chart from Statista.com. It soon became clear that streaming was going to be the future;  and then it all went to hell.

Netflix Overtakes Cable

The state of modern streaming has been endlessly frustrating.  As more and more companies jumped onto the streaming bandwagon, unwilling to split the revenue with established sites like Netflix and Hulu, the number of streaming services soared.

Before long, streaming had recreated many of the same issues that caused people to abandon cable in the first place: excessive advertising, excessive subscription cost, and excessive division of content, to name a few. I elaborated on this a bit in a short audio segment.

Brief Ramblings On The Issues Facing Streaming

This frustration has clearly reached a boiling point, I spoke to several film and television enthusiasts and most of them said they had given up on streaming, a handful said that they primarily purchased content through iTunes or YouTube, a few had large libraries of physical media, a few more had plex servers with physical media backed up to hard drives, but far and away the most common response I had gotten was that they had simply turned to piracy.  As Gabe Newell, president of Valve Software once put it “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates.”

At first, this is what streaming was,  but as subscription costs and competition rose, streaming was sort of crushed under its own weight.

Why would you pay seven dollars a month for Netflix with ads, where the content can be removed at any time, when with a bit of effort you could get the same content completely free and keep it as long as you wanted?

Though this is unfair to creators, it’s hard to blame people for becoming jaded. When you add the costs of the major networks’ streaming services together, it easily surpasses a basic cable package with content from all those same networks.  

Not to mention when you add competition from free services like YouTube and Tubi, it makes it harder to convince consumers that paying for this content is the right thing to do, especially in the case of ad-supported tiers.  For cable this is less of an issue, since with few exceptions advertising subsidized the subscription costs from the very beginning, but over the course of several years streaming garnered its user-base by building an expectation of unlimited access to a vast content library for nothing more than a small fee.

Streaming can still course correct, but it’s going to be a painful transition to find the sweet spot between user satisfaction and sustainable profitability.  It is already certain that streaming is going to be the future, but whether that future ends up being dystopian or utopian remains to be seen.