4 Apr 2015

Why I think Global streaming should become reality

I've kind of already touched on this subject in a blog I wrote nearly a year and a half ago, where I lamented the use of region-locking in the entertainment industry, but now that Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix has begun arguing for a global streaming service rather than sticking to today's formula of region-releases for content, I thought it was time to write about it once again.

So, first of all, I want to point out that in the time that has passed since my last rant-filled blog on the topic, things have gotten better. Since my introduction to Game of Thrones, I've had the pleasure of learning that HBO's streaming service over here (called HBO Nordic) releases new episodes on it and all its other shows at the same time as it does in the US. And even on the TV, there are now several shows which release the new episodes over here the same week they are aired in the US. Shows like Castle, Bones and The Big Bang Theory. Maybe others as well, but those are the ones I follow on a week-to-week basis.

We're getting there, folks. Not completely, but it's a major improvement, at least. Of course, there's still a lot of BS restrictions. I've gotten more into merchandise collecting this past year, and bought more stuff online (I used to mostly buy things in person before this year, usually through my trips abroad), and more than a dozen times I've been stopped by a licensing restriction that forbids stores to sell certain items to people outside of certain countries. I mean, I understand restrictions that make sense, like items being too big and too bulky to ship across the Atlantic, or that the items are wired to a different electrical system and could potentially cause a fire if not used with the proper power converter.

Sadly, that's not it. If I should so choose, I could buy a TARDIS fridge from the US and have it express-shipped to me without a problem - yet the Doctor Who Ice cube tray sold by the same store is off limits? Of course, there are other ways to get them, like using a reshipping service, or buying off people re-selling items on ebay for a profit, but it shouldn't be necessary.

But I digress. At least when it comes to television distribution, things are improving, but there's still a long way to go to reach the true ideal, an open global market. And streaming services like Netflix (and hopefully eventually other more current services like say Hulu) doing away with region-specific content and instead focusing on a fair global access is in my opinion the way to go. Not just for fan culture, although it would in my humble opinion do away with a lot of pirating out there. Fans just want to keep up, want to partake in and celebrate the fandom. We are willing to pay our subscriptions and buy physical copies, there is no need to worry about getting money from us. For every person who just wants to get something for free there are dozens of us who prefers paying for a legal and easy option.

It also equalises the customers. I personally enjoy Netflix a lot, but seeing the difference between the US library and the one I have access to is a bit like a slap in the face. Especially since the service over here costs roughly twice as much as the users in the US pay (depending on the exchange rates, naturally). Of course, I can correct this through the use of VPN, but it shouldn't be necessary to "cheat" my way to content on a service I'm already paying for.

Also, I believe global streaming becoming reality would most definitely have an effect on other aspects of the entertaining industry as well. Like, perhaps we could eventually see the end of region-coding on discs. We're seeing some of this happening already with some studios opting to release their blu-rays without region-coding, but I'm hoping we'll see more of it.

Yes, we might eventually do away with the whole physical copy portion of the industry altogether and instead opt for more digital media. But then I think, people are still buying books, DVDs, CDs (even the LP had its renaissance some years back) - despite of the convenience that is the digital copy. So I think that while people love convenience and are going to use streaming services and digital rentals more as the years pass by, there will probably always be enough people who prefer the physical copy to do away with it entirely.

Either way, here's to hoping this becomes reality rather than just some words in an article.

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