Brankin: The manipulation of streaming services

Why the constant competition between streaming services is detrimental to consumers.


by Tara Brankin

In July 2020, Peacock TV, a streaming service created by NBC, went live. In the months following Peacock’s release, both “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” two of NBC’s most popular comedy series, were taken off of Netflix. While this likely came as somewhat of a shock to those who are big fans of the shows, there wasn’t too much uproar. It would be fine because both “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” are on Peacock, right?

Well, it’s more complicated than that.

While Peacock advertises itself as a relatively free streaming service, only the first two seasons of “The Office” are available for free, and that’s not the only misleading piece of information. If you want access to more content, you have to pay $5 a month, but you still have to sit through commercials. If you don’t want to sit through commercials, you have to pay $10 a month, a dollar more than the basic Netflix subscription.

Over the past decade, streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and more recently Disney+ have been in constant competition to have the largest number of consumers and subsequently make the most money. This has resulted in platforms making their own high-budget television shows and movies with esteemed casts and crews and attempts to sign series that people love onto their platforms.

Peacock is an example of prominent television networks trying to get in on the action. Not only does Peacock have “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office,” but it also has movies like the “Harry Potter” series and claims to have upcoming original content by writers like Tina Fey.

The battle between streaming services and the creation of new ones by prominent television networks is a way of financially manipulating the consumer, whether intentional or not. More than half of consumers subscribed to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime are also subscribed to another service, as people’s favorite movies and series are bounced from one platform to another. If a consumer doesn’t want to miss out on a popular TV show or movie, they will have to spend more money by subscribing to additional streaming platforms.

For example, “Parks and Recreation” is one of my favorite comedy series. When it was taken off of Netflix, I was anxious to see what streaming service would pick it up next. I was expecting maybe Hulu or HBO would snatch it, but, to my dismay, I realized that it would only be available on Peacock. As much as I love “Parks and Recreation,” I was not willing to subscribe to an entire platform just to watch one series.

Honestly, the creation of Peacock just annoys me. It is, in my opinion, a shameless attempt to force consumers to subscribe to its service by holding their favorite series over their heads. Unfortunately, I think it is likely that other television networks will follow in NBC’s footsteps. When it comes to making money, large television networks aren’t going to simply stand by and watch streaming platforms profit off of their series.