It looks like it's the end of the party for streaming services. Prices are going up, choice is going down, and the quality is declining.
Despite all the hype about how transformative streaming would be for the industry - there's one thing which never really seemed to take off. It's almost impossible to find "foreign" TV on Netflix, Apple, Prime, and the BBC.
Outside of a few breakout movie hits - like "Space Sweepers / 승리호" - there's a dearth of non-English content for me to watch.
Take Der Tatortreiniger. A hugely successful German comedy1 which was remade by the BBC into "The Cleaner". Despite having half-a-dozen streaming options available to me, it is nowhere to be found. If I used a VPN and told Netflix I was in Germany, there are no English subtitles available.
The only way for me to watch it is to buy the US region DVDs.
Even if German comedies are too niche for mainstream Anglophone viewers, isn't that the whole fucking point of the "long tail"?
The extra storage costs for a couple of GB of video are a rounding error to Netflix. An extra entry in the database is nothing. So what's the problem?
In my naïvety, I assumed that streaming services only paid royalties on a per-minute basis. But it seems that it is a lot more complicated than that.
And even if streaming services could accurately report on how popular shows are, lots of media companies are bound up in territorial thinking. Shows are sold to countries and regions. They are explicitly locked behind geographic firewalls. That's what determines the shows you are allowed to view. The Internet is meant to obliterate borders. You can sell to customers all over the world! No barriers!
I know the Long Tail Theory has been mostly discredited. And I know that the ALGORITHM is going to suggest shows which are more profitable rather than more entertaining.
I just wish the world was more open. I want to watch an Iranian sit-com, a Kiwi Biopic, a Korean melodrama, a French documentary, and - yes - a weird German comedy.
I don't want my viewing choices to be artificially restricted.
In the background, a chorus of disgruntled viewers start chanting "Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
- Sounds like an oxymoron - but it is excellent! ↩