Recently, Apple announced that they would be launching two new streaming services for TV and videogames. These services, entitled Apple TV and Apple Arcade respectively, will enter the competitive streaming market alongside Google’s Stadia and Disney+ as well as having to compete against industry giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
The move to a streaming model represents a big shift for Apple, which has a long and successful history of selling media online through iTunes, the App store and other digital platforms. Interestingly, Apple has showcased a focus on original material from the very beginning, hosting a star-studded event in California with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston and many others.
At this point, we can only speculate on the offering, price and quality of Apple’s upcoming streaming services. However, we can talk about how these changes to Apple’s business model reflect a much wider trend of streaming rather than buying media, especially music, TV, films and video games.
A Brief History of Film:
To contextualise the effect that these new streaming platforms are having on the film industry, we need to explore the history of film. Though it is hard to pinpoint the true birth of moving pictures, most people agree that the first major cinema showing took place on the 28th of December 1895.
The commercial screening of 10 Lumière brothers’ short films in Paris on 28 December 1895 was one of the first breakthroughs of cinema. Legend has it that the audience ran screaming from the theatre upon seeing a moving train rolling towards them, such was the novelty of this new technology.
Shortly after, film studios were established across the globe and the first successful film theatre was built in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1905. These theatres were the only way that Pittsburgh citizens could see their favourite films, as TVs and video players were unheard of.
Later, broadcast television meant that people could see films, shows and news broadcasts in their homes, as opposed to purpose-built theatres. One of the first consumer-grade television broadcasts took place as a sort of ‘tech demo’ in Selfridge’s Department Store in London on the 25th of March 1925.
Even for the lucky few who owned television sets in the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was virtually no way to own or play movies on demand like we do today. Unless you could afford a projector and your own film reels, it was impossible to watch your favourite films at home on demand.
However, this all changed with the invention of film tape, which made it easier and cheaper to record, copy and transport moving images. At first, this technology was only suitable for commercial use (mainly broadcasting companies) but it grew more advanced and affordable over the years.
The adoption of the Video Home System (VHS) standard as developed by the Japanese Victor company in the early 1970s eventually allowed video cassette to reach a mainstream audience in 1976. Video cassette technology later grew cheaper and more popular to the point where most households in the UK owned a VHS player by the late 1990s.
When the first Blockbuster store opened in 1985 Texas, they helped to revolutionise the video-rental industry and bring it to a much wider audience. By acquiring the rights to distribute media (including videogames), Blockbuster paved the way for streaming companies to rent out and stream movies, shows and more online.
The Future of Streaming:
As the film, TV and videogame industries increasingly embrace streaming as a viable distribution method, what impact is this likely to have on you as a consumer? While this model makes it much easier and cheaper to enjoy a wide range of media, there are many unique pros and cons with streaming.