Streaming and oversaturation of media

Streaming services allow consumers to pick and choose what they watch. That freedom can be overwhelming.

Graphic by Elle Dalsing

As the popularity and relevance of cable television continue to dwindle, a new option has emerged in recent years to fill the entertainment vacuum: streaming. Whereas cable TV packages often include hundreds of channels of varying niches, streaming services are rarely packaged together. Rather, each service is obtained through individual subscriptions of monthly or yearly payments. But between Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and a vast array of other platforms, how many streaming services do you really need?

            Of 20 UVU students surveyed in the Language Arts building, two reported regular use of at least eight streaming services in the past month, while the average number of streaming service subscriptions came out to be 4.16 per student. One student elected not to provide a number, explaining that they “subscribed to too many to count.”

            Streaming was initially conceived as a cost-effective alternative to traditional cable television. However, the recent abundance of services coupled with the American public’s sustained desire to consume media is causing some to question the financial benefit of streaming versus cable.

Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video — four of what many call “the big five” streaming services — have a monthly cost of $6.99, $7.99, $7.99 and $8.99, respectively. These are the prices of each service’s most basic plan, most of them requiring viewers to watch intermittent ads.

Assuming the average UVU student uses approximately four streaming services a week, and that they subscribe to the aforementioned four most popular services, their monthly payment towards streaming comes out to be $32, or $384 a year.

While an annual payment of $384 is relatively modest for many, it’s important to note that $384 is an approximation found using only the most cost-effective variables. It’s highly possible for a household’s annual streaming cost to more than double the previous approximation, especially if they subscribe to more costly streaming services such as YouTube TV ($64.99/month).

Yet even if the financial strain of streaming presents few obstacles, the abundance of streaming services presents another problem: oversaturation. Netflix boasts a library of over 5,000 titles as of September; Hulu provides roughly 3,000 more; and nearly every streaming service releases original films and series on a regular basis. It’s simply not possible to watch everything.

The multitude of new releases each week presents a dilemma to consumers — how can you justify the cost of multiple streaming services when access to multiple services ensures that you’ll never find time to watch everything?

The dilemma has no clear answer. Whether you choose to pay for only one service and miss out on exclusive titles or pay for multiple services and find yourself inundated with options, oversaturation of media appears to be unavoidable.

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