Hulu, Netflix, iTunes – a real alternative to illegal streaming?

Having read so much about online piracy made me think about why it actually exists. Is it because people enjoy stealing and get a kick out of breaking the rules? Or is it a service problem that the film industry needs to fix? Certainly the latter, which is why I tried to identify some reasons for the popularity of online streaming.

First of all, there is the huge price advantage of illegal streaming because – that’s right – it costs NOTHING. Going to the cinema on the other hand has become incredibly expensive. In the Cinemaxx in Berlin, you have to pay €10 for a decent seat – €13 for a 3D movie. Plus €10 for popcorn and a drink. That makes €20-€23 for seeing ONE movie ONE TIME. As a student, it’s just not possible for me to pay that much everytime I want to see a film.

Same with DVDs – they usually cost around €10 and in most cases, you only watch a movie once, twice at the most. So why would a normal person spend that much, when she could just turn on her computer and watch a movie online?

Some companies have managed to recognize this opportunity and have created websites that allow subscribers to watch movies legally in exchange for e.g. a small monthly fee. Or, as HBO does it, the tv show producers make their shows available on their own website.

So, where’s the problem?“ you might ask. The problem is that Hulu, Netflix and others still only have access to a limited amount of shows and movies and still can’t satisfy the customers’ wishes. And in Germany it’s even worse: When all my American friends already talk about how shocking last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was, I’m still waiting for the new season to start because none of those sites are available in Germany.

This cartoon shows exactly how I this feels:

So what to do?

None of the above-mentioned options are satisfying for us consumes. However, Hulu, Netflix or iTunes are going in the right direction because I think that there is a huge opportunity in providing legal online streams. Paul Tassi, for example, describes his (and my) ideal online service as follows “More or less, it’s Steam (the online PC  game distribution client) for movies. It allows you to rent or download your favorite films with ease, build a library and watch cross devices and share with your friends. The service would effectively allow you to beat the seven step piracy process easily.”

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But despite the convenience of watching a movie at home, people will always want to go to the cinema as a special night out – with comfy chairs, loads of popcorn and a huge screen because unless you were in an MTV Cribs episode, you maybe have a flatscreen at home at the most.