The more streaming services there will be, the more likely it is that only thepiratebay and torrents will win.
Now that the future is here, people are complaining that they need to sign up for too many streaming services. Why can't I just pay once for a bundle and get everything I need?
I'm just as guilty as everyone else, I don't have a good answer...
But that is still the case. If I could only pay for the shows I watch, I would not complain. But if I watch one Netflix show, I can't just subscribe to that show, I must pay for a ton of stuff I'm not remotely interested in.
You still have Netflix, Disney+ and all the cable channels you need to subscribe to if you want their shows, how is this better for the consumer ?
An actual 'A la carte' situation is that of the consumer being able to actually handpick the shows they want and only pay for those. This will never happen due to the industry being absolutely hostile to the idea, second best from a consumer standpoint is a single huge distributor like Netflix where you would pay larger fee but have access to practically everything you want, that is now pretty much a pipe dream since every major player wants to run their own streaming platform. This is not the way to beat piracy.
We've been able to do this with a substantial number of shows for years, though, by buying individual episodes or "season passes" on Amazon and iTunes. Maybe people just don't know, maybe people think the prices are too high, but more than likely the market has just largely moved on from this model for much the same reason that it moved on from CDs: the rise of streaming. (But put a pin in that for a second...)
> ...second best from a consumer standpoint is a single huge distributor like Netflix where you would pay larger fee but have access to practically everything you want...
This is what we all want price-wise, but would we really, truly want to turn Netflix into the equivalent of the iOS App Store for essentially all legal streaming movies and television?
Everyone blames the proliferation of streaming services on rapacious greed, and, I mean, sure, the profit motive is mighty. But it's also a matter of keeping control. Broadcast networks and cable companies are middlemen who not only take a cut of the profit but who also act as gatekeepers; it's a little mad to think that producers would want to free themselves from that system only to rebuild it with a single all-powerful company in the command seat.
Sure, not all the streaming services will survive, especially at the prices Netflix is currently charging. But I'm not convinced that the world is really going to rise up and rebel against having to pay $50 or $60 a month total to a half-dozen providers for commercial-free, on-demand access to hundreds of thousand of shows versus paying $100+ a month to a single provider.
They're usually not available until well after the season premiered (12+ months later), roughly at the same time that the DVD/Bluray comes out.
The quality of them is iffy, at best - SD or HD at poor bitrates. Fine for watching on a tablet or laptop, marginal at best on a TV/Surround system.
They're tied to watching on that specific platform, and you're fucked if you wanted to watch on another platform, and if that platform goes away so do all your purchases.
They're region locked, so if you went overseas for a bit, you can't access them.
They're often either as expensive, or more, than the physical Bluray.
The rest of your complaints are certainly true, though. As I mentioned in another reply, I think it's possible that if this a la carte model had taken off, there would have been successful pressure to go DRM-free just the way that there had been for music, although your mention of region-locking brings up that whole "international rights" folderol that's still with us even in the streaming world, so...
Just provide something that isn't worse than torrents and reasonably priced and I'll happily buy the content I'm interested in.
For example: https://store.steampowered.com/app/468060/PADAK/
Sometimes people on HN might have to accept they are not typical users a bit.
They quite obviously don't. Perhaps most notably availability at premier, which tends to matter a lot for TV shows if you have any desire to be part of the conversation about them.
Absurdly high. Game of Thrones costs $167 on Amazon, which is more than binge-watching it eleven times using one-month HBO subscriptions.
I have a box set of the old NBC sitcom Frasier. 11 seasons, 264 (!) episodes, probably $200 total. I've had it for over a decade, and it's been a great thing to have while traveling, or moving to a new home where I won't have Internet set up for a week.
I'm happy to pay a one-time fee for content I'll own forever and can watch in whatever delivery method I want, be it Plex, Kodi or ripped to my phone's SD card. Netflix, Amazon etc can pull these shows off their catalog whenever they want, and shove some unrelated show in my face when their search results don't show what I'm looking for.
People just like to complain. It has never been cheaper or easier to instantly consume media, yet there is no satisfaction (because they’re comparing it to stealing the media, which is illogical of course).
Of course, there are legitimate issues in countries that have BS licensing restrictions forcing people to use a middle man such as cable or satellite TV providers. Also, copyright terms are far too long in the US, so there are valid reasons to pirate. But price/availability in US usually aren’t it, in my opinion.
That's not relevant. The simple fact is that $167 for a season is well beyond the budget of the average person whose opinion you're considering. "Hours of entertainment" is (always) the wrong formula, by the way. Nobody needs to steal anything to enjoy hours of free entertainment doing a myriad of activities. Most TV shows simply make no effort at all to price either episodes or full seasons for a wide market.
Compare two ABC shows on Amazon Video, General Hospital and The Bachelor. General Hospital is a daily soap opera with 36 minute episodes and modest production value. The Bachelor has 2-hour episode with higher production values. A full season of The Bachelor is reasonably priced at $20. Individual episodes are $3.
Individual General Hospital episodes are also $3 each. This doesn't seem too crazy if you're talking about someone who might otherwise miss an episode because they are traveling or something. It's probably steeper than it should be, I imagine most soap fans will just read up on what they missed if they care enough rather than shelling out money to watch. But regardless, the full 241-episode season is $735.00. This is quite obviously not priced to sell as a package. No one would buy that. It is simply 241 episodes times $3.00 per episode, which is a generic Amazon price for an HD episode of anything. In fact you can buy the SD version for $15.00. It is clear that no real thought at all has gone into the pricing scheme.
That's true, but the number quoted by the previous poster doesn't match what I'm seeing right now on Amazon, where each season tends to run around $25 on Blu-ray.
> Most TV shows simply make no effort at all to price either episodes or full seasons for a wide market.
I'm not sure I agree with "most." You even cite one example of a show that's priced reasonably and one that's, well, not. The "one size fits all" model of pricing that was adopted years ago seems to be built for weekly-at-most shows, not daily ones. I do think the pricing model was too high, though. (I'd have probably tried $2 per show for HD, not $3, and given tremendous discounts, like 50% off, for season passes. But I don't know whether you can feasibly make that model work for a show like General Hospital at all.)
If the media owner determine there is insufficient revenue and more can be had by lowering price, they can do that.
What is relevant is that it used to cost much more to get the same product, and it’s up to the buyer to determine what they want to spend to entertain themselves. There’s so many options nowadays, if GoT $/hour is too much, then choose something else.
That's true in most markets, but also totally irrelevant to the point. If a seller has no idea what the market will pay for something, and so just slaps on an absurdly high price because they don't actually care about this secondary (a la carte) market at all, that's almost the same as not offering the service at all. If an a la carte service is prohibitively expensive, it might as well not exist for the purposes of this discussion.
They've offered the very show we're talking about, GoT, for $15 per month, when you want to watch, on pretty much any device you want to watch it on. Included in the $15 is pretty much the rest of their award winning content. If buyers think they can get a better deal elsewhere for their entertainment, they are welcome to patronize other businesses.
And also likely with layers of bureaucracy, internal and external politics, complex business relationships, and other avenues for dysfunction.
> They've offered the very show we're talking about, GoT, for $15 per month
Sorry I'm not trying to be offensive here but you are losing track of the discussion. My entire argument is that many distribution companies evidently do not care enough about offering a la carte consumption alternative to make the effort to price it reasonably, although the situation is improving as companies get their act together and actually decide to act on the market data they have. (Game of Thrones for example is now $25-$30 per season on Amazon Streaming).
As such, the fact that anything might be available for a subscription at a reasonable market price is not relevant.
That's exactly the thing though. It has been easier. We all remember it being easier, when we pirated something.
The actual sentence should be "it has never been easier while also getting to pay for it". That's just not a very compelling case.
Today, I have a single device (AppleTV), a single remote, and can stream just about anything I want. And that content is either bundled with Netflix or Amazon, or available to rent for $5 or so. And I don't have to break the law to do it.
Also, you are comparing effort it takes to set-up something, with effort it takes to use it, which I'd argue isn't entirely fair.
Using is as easy as a smart-phone. Click the search app, find content, hit play. Everything auto-updates, so there's no maintenance. VS a HTPC + NAS which take (slightly) more care+feeing to keep current on software versions.
I thought you were talking about setting up some sort of torrenting/media server system with this part of your comment.
I agree, using a browser is easy enough. But, why would I when the AppleTV is already connected to my TV and I can do everything with a simple remote and voice commands?
There is no purpose to comparing pirating with legal means.
You mean like the music industry has Spotify, Google Music, Deezer, Tidal, Apple Music and many many more, and everyone has a 99% full catalog?
You better motherfucking believe it.
This is the only thing people want in the ultra laggard video-streaming market.
You know what Spotify thinks is the way forward for them? Exclusives. That's why they've spent hundreds of millions of dollars on podcasts. You may love it if they're functionally undifferentiated from their competitors, but they don't. Apple and Google can slide because they're Apple and Google, but services that actually need to pay their own way need to give you a reason to pay them, not Apple or Google.
So, sure. Consumers love "pay $10 a month to whoever you want, eh, it's all the same, tomato, tomahto." But it's not at all clear to me that it's a sustainable model in the long run. And I'm pretty sure the reason the video streaming world didn't even pretend to take a stab at that business model is they don't think it is, either.
If I want to watch something else, those hours are away from my Netflix usage and I get less for my money in those cases. I don't think that a large offering is what should raise the price, rather the hours I spend watching. If I only watch an hour a day Netflix and Hulu for 3, I think the 10USD or so should be split into 25/75 between those providers.
Splice kinda has a pricing model for their samples and presets that could be applied here. A fixed monthly cost will give me credits with which I can purchase what I want and leftovers from that month gets rolled into the next month. If I could pay 10 dollars and get 10 hours of any content on any provider, I'd buy it. I'd most likely end up paying more each month but at least I wouldn't feel like wasting my money paying a fee for content I'm not gonna watch and feeling like needing to have multiple subscriptions rolling all the time.
Overall, consumers preferred the subscriptions. They’re a better deal if you watch more than 5-10 hours a month.
Though there are some things you can only purchase a la carte.
A la carte is significantly more expensive in literally every industry, globally, for a reason.
True, but clearly not the case with most TV shows. It's not an a la carte premium. It's either targeting a niche market like collectors, or there's just no attempt to set a market price whatsoever as the example here demonstrates: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21682892
When I want a song, I've always just bought it. I still do. I can do basically anything with the file other than redistribute it. I can even play music while offline! I only use streaming services like Spotify and YouTube for songs I don't regularly play.
I'm very frustrated I don't have the same option for movies and TV. Sure, I can buy the physical media, but there's all sorts of legal shinanigans when it comes to ripping blurays and such. My ideal solution isn't one big streaming service that has everything. I want an "iTunes for movies".
What commercial video from the major studios have not had copy protection?
Either there was no copy protection, or the copy protection was so trivial to circumvent that I never even knew it was there.
I never said that the copy protection schemes weren’t easily circumvented. I said that commercial video has always had copy protection.
You’ve never been able to buy commercial video without copy protection. Even in the VHS days you had Macrovision.
That statement is factually correct.
Not true. Perhaps you meant to say that copy protection has existed for a long time. But plenty of commercial video has been available without copy protection.
Which is factually incorrect.
I copied in the 2000s using whatever generic DVD ripper was available for windows at the time. I recall once or twice being unable to rip a DVD for copy protection reasons but it was rare.
Since even the oldest Windows dvd copy programs like DVDRipper could crack DRM doesn’t prove anything...
Are you now saying that being factually correct is “irrelevant”?
But using programs and devices that removed copy protection somehow proves that it didn’t exist?
Since it is only available in the US, I would suspect that it would be centered around US releases.
Even if Disney later shuts down Movies Anywhere, you’ve already “purchased” the movie according to Amazon/Apple/Google, etc. You can disconnect from Movies Anywhere once you sync the titles between services.
As a broader matter of principle, it proves your property rights over a DRMed ebook are weak compared to a regular physical book; if you had a physical book, the seller couldn't barge into your home and remove it, refund or no.
You... know that iTunes sells movies, right?
Also, no Dolby Vision in piracy atm.
Obviously cost is a factor. But more important for me is ease of access and best possible quality. Let‘s take Disney+. In my market it‘s not available yet. I will absolutely pirate The Mandalorian. The fact that it would surprise anyone that it would be a heavily pirated show is laughable. It‘s 2019 and you expect people to wait on a show that‘s available elsewhere? I would pay for it. But they won‘t let me. Their fault for not launching globally .
So, assuming there is 250 channels, and everyone watches 5, but a different 5, it costs the same to let everyone watch all 250, or exactly 5 of them.
Anyway with these streaming services, it's not so much that people want to pay for a bundle. It's more that micromanaging a lot of subscriptions is a chore. If they could all be integrated in a smooth manner ui-wise, but still paid separately, then people would be happy I think.
Like imagine if adding Disney+ was just a manner of clicking a button that made money flow and content available in the app you were already using.
Let me try to make an example. Let's say there's one popular streaming platform, that is $5/mo. They mostly just aggregate and license content. Later on, content owners want to skip the middleman so they start making their own streaming services. So now you have 3 streaming services, which are each $5/mo.
So you are now paying 3x as much. But you don't watch 3x as much. You pay 3x as much for the privilege of being able to watch a wider variety of things. This is actually pretty similar to the problem of cable, just split in a completely different way. You still can't get the stuff you want 'a la carte,' but now you have to pay three different entities anyways.
Of course content owners will end up making out well because they make money whether on an aggregator or on their own platform, and because people now pay much more per month on average.
In the end - just pick a tomato sauce and try not to think about it too hard. If you don’t like it, pick a different one next time.
I strongly disagree with this.
Netflix previously had much more diverse content. It's currently (as of the last few years) banking on that their own content will substitute the licensed content disappearing on their platform. That The Witcher will satiate your Game of Thrones itch, that "superhero show #1" will be good enough over whatever Disney/Marvel puts on Disney+.
This might work for a few people, but I believe/hope it won't work for most. Chatting about the latest episode of Twin Peaks or the new Nolan movie by the water cooler doesn't work with a pale substitute.
The entire premise of the linked article is based on that cable packages survived and thrived as more players entered the market, and so should streaming services. What it ignores is that "alternative sources"/piracy didn't exist at the time, and does now. People will pay for as many services as they're comfortable with and with as much hassle as they can handle switching apps, and no more.
They should take a hint from music streaming platforms, and let the services compete, and spread the content over all of them, otherwise they will face the reality that people will pirate their service while paying for others.
Sorry for the long rant
/ Multiple service subscriber
Incidentally, after you paid for cable TV had better UX than streaming services today. You had one universal interface - your TV and its remote - and the UI was decoupled from channels and movie producers.
There is a sweet spot users want: one subscription and one UI, and for the two to be decoupled from each other.
Second, cable channels had a genre. If you like food, you might want food network. If you like music, you might want VH1 and the MTV's. If you're into cartoons, there's Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. Bravo has lifestyle stuff, Lifetime is "womens content", G4 was tech stuff, Weather Channel is weather, etc. With the streaming choices...they all serve all kinds of stuff, so picking and choosing makes way less sense. Instead of picking interests, you're picking brand loyalties, and that sucks.
BitTorrent and VLC.
Content providers licence their content to all the streaming services, they all have the same catalog, and customer pick once based on the UI, pricing, service. etc.
Paying for a few of them might appeal to people who've historically paid for cable (or Foxtel/etc in Australia), but it's a noticeable cost otherwise. We currently subscribe to Netflix and Stan, but have dropped Stan in the past and may again.
My problem with Netflix is that its download function is very unstable, so actually I'm thinking of going back to torrenting just because there's no payed option for watching movies offline easily.
Maybe in Australia... but here torrenting has never been slow and wasn't particularly inconvenient when Netflix first came out.
I see their advertising is effective. The price of Prime was even increased recently to help fund video production.
 Not even talking about the warehouses, but literally every SWE friend of mine who has worked for them has a horror story.
Personally I have it mainly for shipping, and get good value out of that (especially since here it's next day by default, some items same day), and stream occasionally.
While I pay extra all the time on my Prime subscription for all the stuff I don't use but Amazon bundled in anyways.
It also depends on the business models. Right now, Netflix is "all or nothing" e.g. you can't pay 50 cents a month for a grab-bag of the content you want; you pay the full monthly subscription for all of the content. If every service was like this, and the content was highly fragmented, I don't see why people would overpay for content they don't even want.
In Netflix’s case, I’m not sure this is true. I’ve heard that some of the content is paid based at least partly on usage.
If there is a new season/show coming out on one service that you are interested in your next subscription will be that service, otherwise it is some kind of random/RR and you get a notification of which app to use this month.
All the shows are available to watch when you want, why bother to have all the subs always?
Having to switch streaming apps/programs every month is not convenient.
Having to wait up to a month to change services if I learn about a new show I like is not convenient.
Having to pay for multiple streaming services if I happen to like content by multiple producers is not convenient (or cheap).
The streaming industry honestly seems like a "prisoner's dilemma" like scenario. Each streaming company (presumably) benefits over their competitors by having exclusives and limiting where certain shows can be watched. But the streaming market as a whole is held back by this.
Similarly, break modern content among 5+ services and the content will be worse and simply not worth paying for. Just look a Hulu which has been free on PC and they still can’t compete with Netflix.
In the end my retired 70+ year old mother has Netflix, Amazon prime, and a premium Cable subscription, yet mostly just watches YouTube videos. For people with less free time and less disposable income their not going to maintain a subscription unless their watching something every month.
Hulu is also not racking up a ton of debt trying to stay relevant like Netflix is.
The same way you usually never paid for single networks when you bought cable stuff but just bought a bundle with a whole bunch of them.
I'm willing to pay for a service that I use a lot and gives me an API that's at least as good as this. But it doesn't make any sense for me to pay for 5 services that combined give me a much worse API. Having to use 5 crappy apps typing in 5 crappy search boxes until I find what I want to watch is quite frustrating.
We started 2019 with Amazon Prime and Netflix, but when Netflix dropped support for streaming from iOS to Apple TV using Airplay, we dropped it (having to use the Netflix Apple TV App was worse than using torrents). Last month, we noticed that most of our torrent streaming is HBO content, and we subscribed to HBO instead. We've been torrenting The Mandalorian from Disney+ recently, but right now that's not remotely close to enough to make us actually want to subscribe to Disney+.
Who ever thinks that requiring people to subscribe to more services is going to actually make them do that, when there is a hassle free, simple, reliable, and cost-free alternative, is delusional.
All it does is that it makes the user experience of paying customers worse. Can't use their preferred video player. Can't use a frontend that puts all the content together. Can't save it for later to watch online, unless the platform has that functionality built in, usually in a restrictive and clunky way.
 I'm, of course, talking about platforms that aren't as aggressive about getting rid of copyrighted content as youtube.
It's getting to the point now where I'm sick of paying so much money and the idea of that seedbox is far more appealing. It's not just the money, it's having to dart about several different applications and remotes to try and find what you want to watch, drives me mad.
I wanted to stream The Force Awakens the other day, I couldn't find it any where.
Currently, I use Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and periodically subscribe to HBO Now for a month or two to catch up (then cancel for 10 months).
Edit: As noted below, The Force Awakens is on Disney+ now. You can rent it on iTunes.
I like this way better, and there can be lots of winners. No way one streaming service can provide and create everything. Plus that's not good either, choice is better.
It seems to work for her, although I don't think I'd be comfortable doing that because I would miss out on pop-culture references.
(I mean, one only has to look at imgur.com for a few minutes to notice a lot of Mandalorian memes, the cynic in me even considers that this might be due to Disney shilling that content)
It could also just be a Star Wars effect and that this is the first Star Wars TV series of any kind so that's also going to balance in its favor, or that it struck a nerve.
Ironically, Disney's lawyers actually tried to shut down some of the memes with DMCA takedowns in an instinctive bit of trying to control their copyrights. I'm not sure Disney quite expected the social media firestorm they created with The Mandalorian either.
What's wrong with that ?
This is problem for Netflix. Competitors have other sources of revenue aside from streaming services, Netflix has just streaming.
Netflix hasn't had positive free cash flow since 2011. As their most popular series are leaving for competition and and the quality of original content is suffering because they are in panic mode to create more original content.
Netflix have been doing cinema releases of their titles ahead of their streaming debut. Surely that's other revenue?
That's for awards qualification purposes. It brings in rounding errors, and almost certainly operates at a significant loss.
As I understand it, Netflix does cinema releases because it's required for Oscar nominations (at least seven days in a theater) and many creative partners like–like Scorsese and Baumbach–want their films into theaters.
I get all 4 broadcast networks for free over the air. Cable channels are infamously bundled so if I get one, I have to get dozens, and it's essentially impossible for channels to fail in the market. These comparisons aren't like competing streaming services at all.
If you look at the actual cable service providers, there are very few. They're definitely prone to monopolies. Comcast (#1) would have bought Time Warner (#2) a couple years ago if the government (and everybody else) wanted to block it.
Totally untrue! Cable companies have to pay a rate to get a channel. Most channels don’t fail, their viewership drops and then they turn into cheap syndication products and mostly use ad money. ESPN is like $15 of your cable bill, and OXY is like $.05. If they didn’t have enough viewers to break even on content costs and broadcast costs off of ad money, they would stop broadcasting.
No mention of piracy and torrents in the article. That is the "seventh player" which will win along with cheap VPN services.
How would that not serve the public interest?
Public gets access. Copyright owners get paid. Middlemen can't fuck it all up (so easily, I'm sure they'd find a way).
Exclusives might still work, if the store that's offering them is selling something. I.e. you can buy something exclusive, and while it's annoying that you are forced to use only specific store for it, at least you pay just for what you bought.
Exclusivity isn't compatible with renting, or it least it won't scale. How many renting services will users be paying for? I bet not many. So let them start selling video, and preferably without any exclusivity.
Why take your share of $15 /month if you can easily coerce the vast majority of consumers to pay the full $15 for your service by releasing the next season of <insert popular show here>.
All it took for the masses to immediately flood Disney+ was owning Star Wars and Marvel.
I subscribed to HBO because of Game of Thrones back in the day, I have Prime anyways and share Netflix with 3 other people.
I want what you described but nobody is going to let this happen if consumers who are too tech-illiterate to pirate will pay up anyways.
But it's war! You have to choose a side. Are you Mac or PC? Are you iPhone or Android? Are you Netflix or Hulu? This strategy, although I don't think it was concocted by a secret group, is great at creating loyal customers. Some will cheat of course and will swing left and right, but in the end, companies make money.
Most Americans have cable. It's often inextricably linked with internet access. The newest customers, in both rural and urban, are definitely used to it.
I'm surprised the t+c's allow you to do that
The big players will likely all survive, yes, but some of the smaller ones are likely to end up also-rans. Thanks to IP exclusives, we'll end up with 3-4 players in the market, for sure. Better? Worse? I dunno. Different, for sure.
Therefore I would assume that we can't fully apply the traditional media experience to the current streaming wars.
So next play is for somebody like Disney to buy an internet service provider or something? Otherwise comcast will start throttling all of their competitors more than they already are..
Once individual consumers hit "peak data" consumable, which despite all the hoopla about phones/IoT devices everywhere streaming in 8k 24x7, has probably already happened (upper limit being the brains input bandwidth), there is no great reason for anyone to invest in ISP's esp looking forward 10-20 years. Kind of like Walmart or Amazon thinking they need to buy highways to keep their addicts supplied.
AT&T owns cell-phones, ISPs, HBO+, WB, DC-universe, and more.
"but it is for consumers"
In fact, increased competition leads to reduced profits (at least in the short term), making this a "negative-sum" game.
The article’s overall point is that more streaming services can lead to more people paying for streaming services in general, enlarging the overall revenues in the segment than would otherwise be there without the new entrants.
Most folks aren’t unsubscribing from Netflix or Hulu for Disney+. They’re spending more on streaming and less on Fortnite or iPad games, or a night at the pub. This may also accelerate the decline in cable/satellite over time, but even that will be sticky since they will find ways to stay relevant.
I'm not an economist but I've never heard of competition described as "negative-sum." It's zero-sum because the consumer wins.
"Negative-sum" would be a nuclear weapons manufacturer profiting off blowing up half the planet. The manufacturer might have made money, but overall everyone else loses far more than the manufacturer gained.
That's not the traditional economic understanding of the *-sum expression either. In economics, competition forces efficiency improvements, which makes competition in cases where increased efficiency is possible positive-sum.
Sure you could measure efficiency in widgets per human-hour but at the end of day, efficiency improvements do not happen in lock-step across industries so at some point you have to convert to a meaningful value dictated by consumers.
In the televised video market, this "efficiency" might manifest as higher quality shows, or a wider selection of shows available to watch. You only need to look back to the early days of TV to see that what we have today is much better (more entertaining, more interesting, has higher technical quality). We also have a vastly expanded selection of shows to watch. This is the result of competition. The sum is positive, because the overall utility produced has increased.
> What's the point of efficiency improvements to a business without a consumer?
I am not sure what in my comment this is referring to. To a first approximation, there are no firms without customers. At least, none that are both legal and last very long.
How is overall utility measured in cases of intangible goods like TV shows and movies? I think I understand what surplus means in the context of industrial/agricultural production or simple services like hair cuts or deliveries but what about media? The success of movies or TV shows can't be quantified with an objective measurement like length or CGI per square inch or Rotten Tomato points, only by the profit they generate - which seems to only get more circular and complicated with Hollywood accounting.
There are certainly more shows available to watch today, "interesting" or not, because the market for entertainment has grown massively but it seems to me they only have higher technical quality because human attention is zero sum and they've hit diminishing returns on their capital (which I don't think is all that different from most other industries).
In the sense of the model, it's not necessarily measured. There is an understanding that there is no such measuring tool as a "util measuring stick." Util being my made up word for a unit of utility. It is taken as a given that utils are roughly convertible to currency, or at least that people are willing to exchange a roughly consistent amount of currency for a given amount of utility. The amount of currency exchanged in a voluntary economic transaction represents both an upper bound on the seller's valuation of what they are selling and a lower bound on the buyer's valuation of what they are buying.
All of this with the appropriate vast numbers of caveats about it just being a model. It's a tool for rough prediction.
> human attention is zero sum
This is not so. You could be forced to pay attention to paint drying on a wall, or you could watch a show that moves you to tears. Both consume the same amount of attention (by which I think you mean, "time spent paying attention"), but both do not provide you so the same amount of utility. You would obviously pay more for one of those experiences than the other.
It is obvious that, if competition is strong for a cake with a given size, that costs, e.g. for advertisement, may actually decrease the profits. While the size of the cake stays the same, the market players have less profits due to increased costs. So in the end everybody has a smaller slice. If I remember correctly, this has happened in a stagnant cigarette market where one player decided to increase his share. They spend a fortune on advertisement, as did the other since they don't want to lose their share. After some years the war stopped and everybody had more or less the same share as before, while having lost a tremendous amount of money on advertisement without gaining any benefit.
This may also be a funny example:
"It's zero-sum because the consumer wins."
A zero sum game has nothing to do with consumers in this example. It means, the cake has a given size. If you want to increase the size of your slice, you have to take something away from another player.
A non-zero sum game would be were the cake (market) is growing. Every year you have a bigger cake. Then it is possible that you can increase your slice without reducing the slice of another player.
I meant zero-sum in the context of this article. Have Disney+, Netflix, etc stopped growing their offerings and market size? Has everyone who can afford to signed up to all of them at the same time?
In that case, the question at hand is: "Are consumers getting more real benefits per dollar spent?"
I'd argue that there's another dimension to the conversation which is granularity. Most of the streaming services don't allow purchasing a single show (except for YouTube, Amazon Prime and a few others), and for the services that do let you buy a single show it's way too expensive for a series.
If you try to buy an entire season of a single show it'll often cost you the price of 6 months of the streaming service.
You're right that in the long term it benefits consumers, and possibly the surviving companies after competition has died down and they can enjoy the fruits of their innovation.