Commentary: How Streaming Has Changed Childhood

by Frank Martin

It’s weird how fast times change, especially in the world of media. For millennia, the only form of dramatic presentation was the live stage. But then came the cinema, then radio, then television. Add to that the rapid advancement of videotapes, DVDs, and streaming. It’s tough to speak about the experiences of times we didn’t live through, but as we age across decades we get to notice certain trends in how we consume all this media. It becomes especially noticeable when we compare our own childhood to that of our children. And in terms of my son, there’s one thing that stood out to me.

When I was a kid, the corporate side of art didn’t really matter. Sure, we might remember certain company logos at the start of a film, like hearing the 20th Century Fox fanfare at the beginning of Aliens. But it didn’t really matter. At least, not consequentially. The only time a kid needed to know who owned what was when visiting a theme park and knowing if Mickey Mouse was going to be there or Bugs Bunny. That’s it.

The reason it didn’t really matter was because access to content was pretty much universal. You watched stuff on TV or bought a movie regardless of who made it. But in the world of streaming, all that has changed. Different services offer different content, and it helps to know what content can be found on what service. Sometimes content is licensed, so you may find a movie or show on a service other than the one as the known owner of the content (Marvel shows on Netflix, for example). But as companies continue to launch their own streaming services, they are keeping their property at home to feature on their own platforms.

The example I’m going to give is The Matrix Resurrections. As I was about to watch it with my son, I told him to get the TV ready. I heard him trying to figure out which streaming service it was on. He knew that The Matrix was owned by Warner Brothers and Warner Brothers has a corporate connection to HBO, so that meant The Matrix would be on HBO Max. That detective work was something I never needed to do as a kid. The corporate ownership of a property was just knowledge I never needed to have. But now my son, living in a different age of streaming, has become more cognizant of which IP belongs to what corporate entity. It’s a strange transition from what I needed to know as a child to what he knows now. So strange, in fact, it makes me wonder what type of media consumption his children will have to experience in the future.

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