BY KÉRA MATTHEWS '24
When Netflix first launched its services in 2007, the world of media changed forever. Streaming had so much to offer: accessibility, convenience, and an abundance of entertainment at our fingertips. It saw great success, making $1.2 million just that year. Soon to follow were many similar platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max, and streaming’s appeal continues to rise. The number of streaming-service media consumers has grown exponentially over the past five years, with over 78 million current users. However, that growth has started to falter, an example being Netflix losing over 25 percent of its subscribers, which has not occurred in over a decade. This begs the question: why is that appeal fading? Having a plethora of media options may have seemed captivating at first, but ultimately, more users are going to drift away from these platforms altogether because it is quite overwhelming to choose among these many streaming services and their individual options.
To keep users invested, streaming services release new material every month; some are beloved classics, and some are brand new. At first glance, the concept seems great: there is nothing more exciting than brand new content, no matter the form. But that excitement can easily fade due to a concept called analysis paralysis. Analysis paralysis is a phenomenon where overthinking a decision “paralyzes” the person, causing them to take no course of action. According to data collected by The Wrap, over 46% of American households have four or more streaming services, which can easily cause this experience. The standard household will not take advantage of each of the four streaming services and the prices they demand, because one streaming service alone is already filled to the brim with things to watch.
Even though Netflix has over 3600 movies and over 1800 shows available, they are still losing subscribers. According to information by SG Analytics, viewers are overwhelmed by the number of options, and some are even signing up for a streaming service solely for specific favorites. This indicates that all of these streaming services are suffering from the same problem: they don’t lay out their sites in an algorithmic way to cater to their customers. There is often an unspoken belief that quantity trumps quality, and consumerism follows that rule, but it only does more harm than good. Because of the randomization technique that these services follow, users’ needs aren’t properly addressed.
Though streaming services and cable grant so much material to their users, it can often feel like too much to handle. Humans like convenience and consumption of meaningless things, but above all, they crave simplicity, and adding more movies and shows only makes things more complicated for the brain. According to BBC News, some households are canceling most of their streaming services to save money, and limiting it to no more than one platform. Savings are the main reason for most people, but the fact that families still hold onto one streaming service shows that the value is still there; it’s simply easier and more worthwhile to stick with very few services. What too many options often does is send people looking for new content into a spiral of scrolling, only to result in them turning off the television, disappointed that there is so much to watch that there is nothing to watch. If people are spending money only on what they think is necessary, and streaming services can somehow find their way along that path, it proves that the execution is the problem here.
As a result of the industry’s way of approaching the media, society’s mental health at large ultimately suffers in a multitude of ways. Studies show that binge-watching shows is a common result of the media being so readily available at our fingertips. It also leads to decreased physical activity, poor diet, and sleep problems, to name a few. Moreover, the act of choosing what to watch is overwhelming enough that it harms our mental health. The more media there is out there, the more it encourages a negative habit of endless media consumption when there are so many healthy activities out there like interacting with family and friends and practicing self-care in a healthy way, such as meditating or practicing yoga. It’s already so easy to fall into the trap of eating potato chips on the couch for the entire day while letting time pass by, and streaming services and companies offer so many options that it portrays a false narrative of what people should be doing with their time. The truth is that the more time we spend watching shows and movies, the worse we’ll feel in the end.
Streaming services are losing their value because of the quantity of media available, and it will continue to disappoint users the more that gets released. Media has its downsides, but its ultimate goal is to be a source of entertainment for people. It can no longer fulfill that purpose if it is being spoon-fed to us at a rapid rate. Luckily, the comforting parts of the media, though sometimes lost in the shuffle, are still there to return to when the various possibilities try to take over.