How is streaming changing the film industry?

How is streaming changing the film industry?

film making streaming

Before the modern age of easy access online streaming, casual viewing and binging, the film industry saw threats only from VHS, TV, DVD and Blu-ray. And even then, the box office had some degree of control over how and when films premiered on the small screen.

Nowadays, viewer habits have evolved far past the humble VHS. The simplicity, ease and lack of expense associated with streaming box office hits and critically acclaimed box sets from the comfort of your home has become a tough act to contend with.

2020 only served to further shake up both the streaming and the film industries, with production schedules abandoned and millions of viewers isolated within the confines of the modern lockdown. As 2021 gathers steam, we take a look at how the streaming phenomenon continues to impact the traditional film industry.

Original content from streaming services

The traditional distribution life cycle of a film typically involves a staggered release in the form of ‘windows’. Cinemas have historically maintained exclusivity for the first few months of a film release, before the film passes through less profitable channels (DVD, VOD). Further to this, cinemas have always been at the mercy of the film studios and distributors, and vice versa. 

Platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime seek to turn this age-old methodology on its head. Original feature length films are a top priority for the streaming giants. If you want a key insight into how seriously a paid streaming platform considers itself, just take a look at the quality and quantity of its original content.

In 2017/18, Netflix had invested around $10 billion into developing such content for its platform. In 2020, this figure was estimated to hit $17.3 billion. As competition continues to heat up between the OTT and subscription video on-demand (SVOD) platforms, we can expect original content budgets to continue rising well into the next decade.

The benefits of original content are wide reaching, for both the platforms that host them and the teams behind their creation. It’s not just about the mass market audience pleasers. Original content productions are often the brainchild of independent movie makers who ooze passion and knowledge for the subject matter. Sure, it might be a particularly niche genre – but these platforms need access to such niches to boost subscriptions. Giving independent creators a voice works wonders for creating a truly global, diverse representation of content that hits home with loyal audiences.

The streaming platforms of today can instantly premiere original content into 160+ countries with relative ease and exclusivity. For a traditional theatrical release, such coverage would spell a logistical nightmare. This is the evolution of the way we, as viewers, consume content. We want it to be accessible, plentiful and tailored to us. And we want to watch it from our own sofa.

The changing relationship between cinemas and film studios

With the fire already stoked, the COVID-19 pandemic only furthered the impact that the rise of streaming services is having on the relationship between film studios and the cinema industry. Traditionally, there has been a mutual success associated with relationships between the two parties, with cinemas posing exciting marketing opportunities for movie premieres and filmmakers, whilst offering great content for cinema goers.

However, as the pandemic continues to disrupt the industry and major studio leaders opt for OTT releases for the majority of their 2020/21 content, cracks in this decade old agreement have begun to show. Popular cinema chains are feeling the squeeze – ODEON bosses shunned Universal films as a result of the latter releasing new content across the big screen and on streaming platforms simultaneously in April of 2020.

Others suggest this highlights a need for change in the cinema industry, where instead of reliance on an old model, the emphasis should be on curating a customer-focused experience for the new age of viewership.


Despite advancements in streaming and OTT technology, cinema will never be ‘dead’. There’s something to be said for the experience of going out with friends to watch a midnight release for your favourite saga. During the pandemic, outdoor cinemas and drive-ins experienced a huge resurgence in interest and attention. The cinema experience is something that keeps viewers coming back time and time again.

Digital content and OTT delivery are going to continue to be at the forefront of how we consume content in 2021. Content owners are king in the modern viewing landscape – whether it’s an indie horror film picked up by Netflix or a multi-million dollar budget Universal Films project. In this sense, the traditional film industry will need to adapt and embrace changes alongside the streaming industry in order to thrive for the years to come.

At PlayBox Technology UK, we have been helping broadcasters across the world to  provide OTT and digital content playout solutions . As streaming in 2021 continues to dominate, now is the time to discover how you can enrich the viewer experience with digital content and streaming. If you’d like to get in touch with one of our experts to discover the best options for your business, get in touch here.