The biggest streaming service just took a tumble -- should you still subscribe? And which services really deserve your money?
For me, the appeal of Netflix has also been the flaw in its business plan. Netflix has always aimed to be all things to all people. This was great for heterodox viewers like me. I'm pretty sure the reason you could already watch Vlodomyr Zelensky in "Servant of the People" on Netflix a couple of years ago was not because the company had a crystal ball that allowed them to forecast world events. Rather, it was because some fraction of its global viewership was interested in Eastern European culture. The problem is that capitalism prioritizes maximizing profit, which in turn incentivizes marketing a narrow tranche of products (AKA branding). This is why the Marvels and the Disneys always win out in the end.
I suspect we are coming to the end of a golden age for content creation. There probably isn't a business model that could sustain the production of something like 600 scripted series annually (just in the U.S., but across all platforms) for the long run. I know many will say, "Wait, THAT was a golden age?!" But that's the way it goes: most of what's made in any golden age is fool's gold, and the age is always all too brief.
In terms of films, Netflix seems the least essential of the major stream services, for me. At this point I'm pretty much sticking with it for Korean dramas: to wonder at Hotel Del Luna, cry with 39, or settle into the comic slice of life pleasures of Hospital Playlist.
If occasionally I get The Mitchells vs. the Machines or Tick, Tick, Boom that's a bonus.
I'm too embarrassed to mention how many streamers we subscribe to. I like stupid TV as background noise so I'll keep Netflix for now. I heard an interesting interview on the Sway podcast with the then-new head of international programming at Netflix last year. She said they were vastly increasing their international content, so another good reason to keep it. Call My Agent and Lupin are two still on my list. Netflix also picks up the latest season of shows like Outlander after it's aired on Starz, if you don't mind waiting a year. That's how I had to watch Schitt's Creek.
Add Britbox and/or Acorn for addicts to British content, like my wife. Hulu includes FX -- at least it has Atlanta and Better Things, so you can cut back there. My 93yo mother is about to move in so we'll be adding ESPN so she can watch baseball. She also subscribes to Paramount+, which is how I can watch Stephen Colbert. A monthly $10 donation to PBS gets me all that programming.
The big thing is I don't have cable or any other TV access so I have to go through the apps for the network shows. I gather I can get live access through Hulu, and maybe others, so there's that to look into.
I'm a set-it-and-forget-it kind of person, so I don't see myself turning on a subscription just to watch a series, then turning it off. (And it would certainly suck if my Substack subscribers did that to me!)
I do wonder when all these services will coalesce back into a streaming version of cable, where viewers can bundle what they want and pay one bill. Sure seems plausible to me, like the universe expanding and contracting, over and over.
I was disappointed by your minimal review of MUBI. A look at the MUBI 30-day schedule looks a lot like the schedule for the Dartmouth Film Society when you and later Tim Craig were the lead curators. Great films of all types, from cult films to esoteric films to classics. I just rewatched "The Grand Illusion." MUBI has also gotten in the distribution business: outside the US, they're the distributors for "Drive My Car." They bought out "The Match Factory" early this year. Criterion is great, but leans toward older, more established films. For important noncommercial movies of the last five years, MUBI is essential. Spend a month there, and you'll see what I mean.