The film industry is experiencing a revolutionary shift. In 2018, 28% of consumers opted to watch movies in theaters for the first time, while only 15% preferred streaming. However, theaters suffered immensely from COVID-19 closures and people’s reluctance to return after the lockdown. For instance, in 2020, theaters incurred billions of dollars in losses due to pandemic-induced shutdowns. By June 2020, the proportion of adults strongly favoring theaters dropped to 14%, with 36% opting for movie streaming instead.

Whether for better or worse, streaming has significantly impacted film production, distribution, and audience consumption. The impact of streaming is not something temporary, this shift is gradually increasing. But how can the increase in popularity of streaming services affect the film industry?

Reasons for the rapid growth of streaming services

Several factors have contributed to the rapid surge in popularity of streaming services. One of the main reasons is the convenience they provide. Users can now access a vast library of content anytime, anywhere, without having to depend on traditional TV schedules or expensive cable packages.
Another factor driving the popularity of streaming services is their affordability. Many streaming platforms offer subscription plans at a fraction of the cost of cable TV, allowing a wider range of people to enjoy a greater variety of content.

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Impact of Streaming on the Film Industry

Indie films greatly benefit from the eyes and accessibility provided by streamers. Viewers are more inclined to watch content they’ve technically already paid for, rather than taking a risk and buying a DVD. The competition in the “streaming war” further intensifies this advantage. If your film gains attention at a major festival, it’s highly likely that someone will approach you with a check and a contract. Moreover, if your film garners enough attention, it’s probable that another party may come forward with a more lucrative offer. Streamers rely on user sign-ups, and having the biggest or best film of the year increases their chances of success.

Although it’s disheartening to witness streaming services negatively impact cinema attendance, these new tools actually assist, rather than hinder, those entering the industry. They not only aid young filmmakers in content creation, but also facilitate consumption. Film school stresses the importance of engaging with films from diverse perspectives, a task made easier by streamers. While this piece predominantly discusses Netflix, platforms like BFI Player (currently accessible for free at Screen and Film School) and Mubi offer extensive catalogs of foreign films that might otherwise remain inaccessible or unknown without streaming services.

Advantages and disadvantages

Filmmakers and the film industry experience both advantages and disadvantages with streaming services. One benefit is the ability to reach a broader audience, as films are seen worldwide, resulting in increased exposure and revenue.

However, there are downsides. Reduced revenue from streaming, compared to traditional distribution methods, is one of the major drawbacks. Although streaming services provide convenient access to content for audiences, they generally pay less per view than traditional theatrical releases or DVD sales. This poses challenges for independent filmmakers in recouping their production costs.

As for the future

Streaming services, including Netflix, have emerged as major players in the movie-making industry. Netflix alone boasts a staggering library of over 6,000 original titles, spanning television series, documentaries, movies, stand-up specials, and interactive content. According to Netflix’s projections, the company is on track to achieve significant milestones in the coming years:

  • By December 2024, the majority of Netflix’s content, around 75%, will be originals.
  • By May 2027, Netflix aims to exclusively offer original content, leaving no room for licensed content.


Viewers are becoming more and more selective and this is one of the influences of streaming services. Previously, viewers simply did not have much choice, only 5-10 films in the cinema, but there was a great desire to watch something. Now the range of films exceeds the ability of a person to watch everything that comes out. You have to sort out low-quality and uninteresting content. This means that studios that make good quality films will continue to develop and receive income from streaming platforms. Low-quality content will gradually die out, becoming uncompetitive.