Have patience for online streaming



MCT Campus

by John Anderson

MCT Campus

The way we rent movies is changing, again. Brick-and-mortar rental stores gave way to postal delivery, just as postal delivery is giving way to online streaming. Some point to empty, deserted husks of once-bustling video rental stores that mark the urban landscape and lament the loss of childhood memories. Others scoff at fluctuating rates for digital movie services.

While streaming is still a little rough around the edges, movie watchers have unprecedented accessibility to an ever-expanding library. We need to keep our composure while things settle down; if we do, the way we rent movies will be better than ever.

Despite the innovations, the inexpensive prices and effortless purchase process, many movie enthusiasts have no patience for minor inconveniences. Earlier this year Netflix announced a fee hike, as well as the separation of its streaming and DVD rental plans. Unfortunately, the announcement came in the same month the Los Gatos-based company lost its contract with Starz, and a month after a split with Sony Corp., which meant losing a large portion of the Instant Watch library. Customers reacted as though the company had declared war on freedom. The outrage led almost a million customers to cancel their subscriptions, which spooked investors and caused a steep drop in stock prices. The company has been trying to reel in its runaway stock value ever since.

The lack of patience with the industry innovator is discouraging. Netflix must balance the demands of its user base with those of Hollywood. Digital licensing is extremely expensive and many studios and distribution companies are proving to have slow reactions to this evolution in how people consume film.

Despite the complications, Netflix has succeeded in providing a relatively stable service with a wide selection at a ridiculously inexpensive rate. Meanwhile, volatility from the customer base is clearly hurting a company that nearly single-handedly destroyed late fees for American movie renters.

As the technology settles in, distributors and studios will become familiar and comfortable with the system. Internet providers will improve networks to match the rising bandwidth needs. Prices will fluctuate, distributors will pull their libraries and companies like Netflix and Amazon will secure new licenses. Subscribers should expect setbacks, but should also anticipate enhanced service and a better experience in the long run. Don’t be taken advantage of, but have patience for a rapidly progressing new medium.

—John Anderson is an ISCOR senior.

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