The on-demand and streaming services industry is growing explosively. With streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, you can watch films and series and listen to music online for a fee. But the rapid digital developments are not going to replace the cinema, the library or the concert hall, says multidisciplinary technology expert and entrepreneur Danny Mekić.
“We’re streaming and downloading more and more now, but we’re also going to the cinema and to concerts more and more. So it seems like the digital world has only increased our appetite for fun experiences so far.” Still, there have definitely been changes. In the past, it took half a year of waiting with bated breath before we would get to see that one popular film that was already out in America, but now we can have access to that film much quicker. “Having more than one launch date for a film is a smart idea, because it creates more publicity. But the consumers won’t put up with that any more. If the first release of a film isn’t on the same date all over the world, the consumers aren’t going to wait around any more until the film distribution company decides to show it to us too,” Mekić says.
If we look back in time, streaming services first saw the light of day in a time when video cassettes and DVDs were still the primary media. “Film makers and producers were still very much limited to physical information carriers, while the consumers had already started to emancipate themselves, in a sense.” Suddenly there was the mobile phone, the MP3 player, the iPod — all sorts of new media carriers. Mekić believes this was the starting point.
The music industry was the first to get on board, with music services like Napster and Kazaa, and that’s how it got started. What was possible for music could also be done with video material. “Consumers want to pay properly for their music and films, but when there was no legal way to obtain a film or song, the industry didn’t really leave them any choice besides pirating it.”
“Streaming services have been a response to that.” It even caused a substantial decrease in piracy. “It needs to be convenient to watch a film or listen to music for money. Then piracy isn’t even interesting any more.”
Despite their convenience and ease of use, there are downsides to these popular services too. There are playlists both for popular and for obscure recording artists, but the emphasis is usually on films and songs that are already popular. “On Spotify, you can see that people mostly listen to artists that are already well-known. New artists and artists who aren’t well-known yet are listened to a lot less. So you might wonder to what extent we’ll still appreciate things that aren’t well-known or popular yet, and how streaming platforms could help with that. But they don’t have an answer to that yet.”
In the past, record companies and film distribution companies decided what would become popular; that was a matter of marketing. The technology expert is particularly concerned about streaming services’ own content. “Netflix isn’t just a service where you can watch films and series; they’ve also started creating their own content. Which means the most commonly watched films will not be the best films, but the films that Netflix has a vested commercial interest in.”
These services are a positive development, believes Mekić, but there still need to be some changes to how they work, and then they’ll be a great addition to the digital world for consumers as well as for musicians and actors.