DVD’s have always held an essence of nostalgia for me. Growing up, the shelves in my living room were lined with them, and every Christmas morning, I could always count on seeing a few of them under the tree. Being able to look at the collection I amassed always stirred up feelings of pride for me.
Of course, back then is when the DVD reigned supreme. This was a time when a subscription to Netflix meant receiving a few select films a month via the mail. Obviously, a far cry from the virtual juggernaut we now associate with the big red N. Things work a little differently now. I can still buy DVD’s, but why would I? We live in the “era of streaming,” and it has changed the world of media and entertainment forever.
As a film audience, we now have access to content in a manner unlike anything ever seen before. We can call upon (almost) any conceivable movie at any time for our viewing pleasure. As such, the methods consumers use to view media is obviously changing with streaming. But what may not be as obvious is the fact that the rise in streaming has also begun to influence the way stories are being told in the film/television medium.
The new wave of storytelling is entirely focused on short-form content. Because of the “binge-watching culture” that has become habitual, the patience and attention spans of viewers has drastically shifted. We are accustomed to having whatever we want to watch immediately prepared for us, and we expect new episodes/seasons/sequels to be queued as soon as we are finished with whatever piece of media we are streaming. Many of the larger streaming platforms such as Netflix have begun to focus on the format of the limited series. According to their records of viewership, more users are likely to start a new show after finishing a season then they are to watch the second season.
The shift in consumer preferences for shorter form content is evident across all media, not just streaming. Vine and TikTok are both perfect examples. With content that is usually less than thirty seconds, these apps make the current trends apparent, and even work to reinforce them. Quibi is an example of a streaming service that attempted to tap into this market. Quibi formatted feature length films into ten-minute increments that could be viewed solely on mobile devices, essentially allowing films to be viewed in the same way TikToks, Vines, or even YouTube videos. If reading the last sentence cause you to make a skeptical expression, I will assure you that your response is not unfounded. Quibi premiered in April of 2020 and was shut down only eight months later.
Even though it was by most accounts a failure, Quibi still represents some striking implications about the way film may be produced and viewed in the years to come.
While audiences were clearly not ready for the drastic shifts Quibi offered, I believe they might be one day in the future. Social media and television have become focused on creating an overexposure to content that is particularly short in length, not requiring a serious time commitment to engage with. I must assume that film will follow suit to some capacity, although I admit, I am not so sure what that might look like. Short increments inspired by Quibi? Perhaps hour-long segments presented as short miniseries, such as the extended cut of The Hateful Eight (dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2015) that was released on Netflix as a four-part series?
Is this the future of filmmaking?
Whatever the case, audiences now crave shorter and more easily digestible content thanks to the new world of viewing that streaming introduced us to. Long gone is the notion for things such as appointment television or the wait between movies in the mail. The question of whether these changes will leave the industry off better or worse is still ambiguous. Regardless, I do not think we will ever be able to go back. I think film will continue to evolve on the basis of these new methods, even if that evolution remains ambiguous as well. Will individuals one day reflect on the era of streaming with the same nostalgia that I now look at DVD’s? Only time will tell.