Netflix Betrayed Us

Netflix recently announced that it would raise its price for a monthly subscription to something like 18 dollars a month. It astounds me that there are people out there willing to pay this much for the application. This might be reasonable if you divide that cost by the number of users who are sharing your account. The amount of original content that the company produces has increased significantly too. There are all kinds of justifications you could make for this. My point here that I want to make though is to illustrate how the integrity of what Netflix started for consumers has been compromised. They no longer have the best interests of the people at heart.

Being able to have a copy of whatever movie or show your desired was a revolutionary thing when Netflix first started to gain traction in the mainstream. Before their ascension your choices as a consumer were much more limited. Places like Blockbuster allowed you to rent a few movies amongst the small catalog at your local store for a set fee which would often increase significantly if you failed to bring back the movies in a timely fashion. What you originally thought would be a 6 or 7 dollar charge could easily turn into 20 bucks before you knew it.

There was also the option of subscribing to expensive cable television packages where you would find channels exclusively dedicated to playing commercial free movies all day to your heart’s leisure. These packages could easily go for a hundred dollars or more though. You also would have no control over what the programming is that they offered.

Discovering an internet company that offered all the DVDs you wanted for something like 10 dollars a month in the late 2000’s was something of a miracle. It really was change you could believe in, just like Obama. There were no late fees, nor did you have to worry about that latest release being out of stock. What an incredible deal!

This amazingness continued into the 2010’s. Their platform would slowly evolve from being a DVD rental service to allowing you to stream a limited number of titles on their website. Often what was streamable was garbage at first. Then their selection started to expand as they were able to strike better deals with production companies. Soon it would be that the DVD rental service was completely forgotten in favor of the much more favorable and convenient streamable platform. You eventually could even stream all these titles on your smartphones. They started producing their own original shows and movies, many of which have become permanent fixtures in pop culture, such as House of Cards and Birdbox. It almost felt like we had reached utopia.

Like all good things, it was doomed to be compromised by the forces of evil. If only we could have lived in a world forever ruled by 10 dollars a month of unlimited Netflix streaming. They really had us a for a moment, making us think that we consumers had found a way to beat the cable companies. There were just too many other companies who saw the potential in streaming content for subscription based income.

Soon something called Hulu would spring up out of nowhere as an alternative streaming service. It was nice to know there was something besides Netflix at first. This is America after all, and we like to try to prevent dangerous monopolies from taking over markets. Nobody knows who Hulu is or who owns it, but nobody cares either. It had some cool content that Netflix did not have.

Then Amazon hopped into the streaming game too. They were the guys that used to just sell you books around the time Netflix was starting. For them to start offering media content seemed ambitious at first and almost gimmicky. It was not long though before you had to take them seriously too. They also started offering original series such as The Man In High Castle. Coupling the service with their Amazon Prime delivery subscription service was genius. Soon everyone had Amazon Prime video whether they wanted to or not because they were already ordering most of their consumer goods from their website.

If Amazon could do it, so could everyone else. Before you knew it, everyone was offering a streaming service offering content that they had exclusive copyright control of. HBO, Disney, Paramount, Showtime, you name it. Youtube started offering a premium subscription model too.

If you add up the costs of all the different subscription services out there, it is likely about the same price as it used to be for a premium cable package in the pre-netflix era. It took barely 10 years for the content revolution to be compromised.

It was good while it lasted, I guess. What will be next though? It is possible that we were duped all along. This could have been a plan to convince us all to be content owning nothing. How many of us buy dvds or or blu ray discs anymore? Even virtual content can be difficult to obtain, with services like Amazon preventing you from downloading virtual purchases on to non Apple devices. Who is to say what will still be available for streaming at the end of this decade once cancel culture has completed its mission to rid us of programming with outdated morals. I often imagine things like the Sopranos and the illustrated Disney classics being gone in the future.

Netflix might not be to blame for all this, but in some ways it feels like nothing has changed — like we have gone in full circle. All of the programming ever created is now accessible, if you are willing to pay for all the different services. There is more new content coming out than ever. Yet what meaning does any of it have? What method is there in how we are consuming content? How many times have we spent 20 minutes or more scrolling through the endless titles across 3 or more streaming services and still not being content with anything we see? The infinite amount of choices has merely trapped us even more into our isolated consumer bubbles of what we like and what we do not like.

It feels good to blame Netflix the same way it feels good to blame Obama — they both gave my generation false hope that utopia was near at hand.

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Shawn Mason

Shawn Mason

front desk clerk at the Ridgeline Hotel in Gardiner, Montana next to the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park.