The promise of streaming once seemed like it would usher in a new era where virtually every movie and TV show would be available at the push of a button at all times. People believed that every Disney title would live on Disney+, every classic Warner Brothers movie would be on HBO Max, now Max, and Netflix and Prime Video would acquire and build libraries of their own.
Like seemingly everything with streaming, though, that dream was a facade. In September 2023, CNBC reported that Netflix is the only streamer that has been able to turn a profit. Every other streaming service has been operating at a loss. And as a result, some of those library titles have begun to disappear. Disney removed a bunch of titles from its service, including Artemis Fowl, Black Beauty, and Willow. Max has removed streaming originals like Love Life, Generation and An American Pickle. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.
In December, there was a moment when the award-winning hit series “Watchmen” seemed to disappear from Max’s servers, too, which was later said to be a mistake and the show was restored to the platform. But even that little accident showed just how easily titles on streaming can disappear, maybe forever. Which is why it has led some fans and filmmakers to get back on the bandwagon of physical media. When Oppenheimer came to 4K, Blu Ray, and DVD, director Christopher Nolan told fans to buy the physical copy so that- and I quote – “no evil streaming service can come steal it from you.” Oppenheimer quickly become a best-seller upon its release, selling out in so many retailers that Universal had to put out a message that they were working to replenish the movie on shelves ahead of the holidays.
While the popularity of Oppenheimer is more of an outlier than the rule, it still shows that for many fans around the world, physical media may just be regaining its importance in an era of corporate consolidation and straight-to-streaming originals being unceremoniously erased.