Here are some things in the D.C. area that cost $11 or slightly more: the nachos at Busboys and Poets, a glass of Jean Luc Mader Riesling at Vinoteca, three sliders at the Matchbox in Chinatown. And here are some things in the D.C. area that cost $15 or so: a Manhattan Project No. 6 at Columbia Room, a do-it-yourself cocktail mixture at Dan’s Café if you’re looking to spend a bit more for something a bit trashier, an UberX from Eastern Market to the AMC theater in Georgetown.
None of these items could be deemed extravagances, and few of the area’s hard-working professional types would think twice before spending their money on them. (A suggested outing to Dan’s might spur some second thoughts, but not due to cost.) I chose these modest entertainments to highlight how cheap subscriptions to streaming services really are.
A standard Netflix plan will run you $10.99 a month. Subscribing to HBO via Amazon Prime Video costs just $14.99 a month. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Post.) For less than the cost of an Imax movie ticket in many markets, these services provide you with hundreds of movies (only dozens of which are actually worth watching, granted, but still) and an enormous back catalogue of TV shows: “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood,” “The Wire,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Oz” on HBO; “Stranger Things,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “House of Cards” on Netflix. All for the price of a cocktail, a car ride, a slice of avocado toast, a paperback book, a couple of lattes.
And yet! Despite this bounty laid before us — despite the ease of signing up, the quality of the programming, the fact that the entertainment comes right to your TV without you having to do much more than lift your left arm and grab the remote — a number of people are still too cheap to pay for all that goodness.
As Jonathan Behr recently noted at Forbes, password-sharing of the aforementioned services and others like them is a blight upon our otherwise civilized nation: “A recent survey from media research firm Magid found roughly 35% of all young consumers share their passwords, well above the 19% of Generation Xers and 13% of Baby Boomers who partake in this practice. According to Magid, post-millennials aged 21 and younger share passwords at an alarming rate of 42%.”
Now, as someone who occasionally hears from folks complaining that essays like this one are stuck behind a paywall, I’m no stranger to the cheapness of the average Internet denizen. But at least there’s an honesty to depriving oneself of incredible content such as that created by yours truly because you can’t be bothered to throw down a few nickels a day on democracy-saving reporting.
The password sharers are much more troubling, however. It’s one thing to pass up on a good or service due to cost; it’s another to help yourself to that service anyway on the back of someone else — a parent, a friend, a former roommate, whatever — all while depriving the content providers (and, eventually, the content creators) of revenue.
Password-sharing is just another form of piracy, albeit a more commonly accepted one, and piracy has always annoyed me for reasons I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on. After all, I’m not losing out on any revenue. I’m not the gaffer who misses out on a gig because a new flick’s not worth making if it’s going to be distributed online before it even hits theaters. I’m not the producer who has sunk his hard-earned cash into an artistic endeavor that won’t pay out because roughly 2 out of 5 young people don’t want to pay for a subscription to Netflix. Perhaps it’s just another manifestation of my preference for capital over labor.
Or maybe my angst is more simple: I object to the devaluation of art, the idea that movies and music and every other thing should be free for the taking, accessible at no cost, with no effort made to acquire them. The free-rider problem has yet to manifest (lord knows there’s no shortage of streaming services and no shortage of shows to stream), but one wonders how long that will last as each successive generation grows more comfortable with getting content free — or allowing their friends to free-ride off them.