Duvet? Check. Popcorn? Check. Vino / beer? Bonus check… All whilst your favourite new series is streaming? Check. Check.
A night in watching the latest online obsession on the laptop – better still – hooked up to Apple TV, has fast become the norm. For some, it can even get quite serious; spending days or weeks in hibernation just to finish off that new series of Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black.The churning out of reality TV shows and mindless Hollywood trash is clearly not doing it for us.
We’ve become a society that craves something a bit more sophisticated, with well thought out story-lines and clever use of character development becoming a must. We seem to be in a golden age of entertainment, where the world of streaming just keeps giving and we keep ‘awanting’.
If this isn’t obvious in the A-listers clambering to get their lead in a Netflix-esque series then take a look at the growth of Netflix itself, which has reportedly doubled its users in three years: from over 20 million subscribers worldwide in 2011 to 50.2 million in 2014.* (For the record, Netflix Argentina could not provide specific figures for its usage here. Nevertheless, any existing figures could be made redundant if recent news of a ‘Netflix Tax’ is anything to go…)
But in Argentina, streaming, or at least downloading, is certainly not something new. In fact, long before Jack Bauer returned to the TV screens to blow up London, this country has (albeit illegally) been watching their favorite TV shows and films whenever and however they pleased. If the lines of DVDs lining Argentine streets is anything to go by then this won’t come as much of a surprise. In more recent years, the introduction of bittorrent, HD and ‘plugins’, only serving to encourage more of the online craze. (Let’s not forget Argentina was the first country in Latin America to block popular torrent site The Pirate Bay last July.)
Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, is known for making it his mission to change the paradigm of TV from “did you watch the last episode” to “which episode are you on?” Well… Argentina has been asking that for years. Ever since Lost hit the TV screens ten years ago, online viewing really established itself here; viewers were not willing to wait until next week’s episode on regular TV and so made it their mission to get their fix fast, no matter what. Ask any Argentine about Lost and they’ll tell you that people were obsessed, with a capital O.B.S.E.S.S.E.D.
Historically, the time people had to wait between the season premiere in the US and the season premiere in Latin America took several months, so that’s when the whole idea of downloading shows illegally became a reality. The illegal way became the norm, which eventually drove Latin American networks to make an effort to close that gap. Now, whenever a show opens in the US, it takes very little – if any time at all. For instance, when Jack Bauer returned and 24: Live Another Day premiered in the US this year, the show premiered in Latin America only 24 hours later. Quite a departure from what happened eleven years ago: while the show premiered its third season in the US in October of 2003, people had had to wait until March of 2004 to see the first episode.
Ironically, the US is now going through the same problem. American audiences are obsessed with British shows like Downton Abbey, but while this particular show premieres in October in the United Kingdom, Americans have to wait until January for the new episodes. Guess what: this is driving many in the US to illegally download episodes in desperation and in order to avoid spoilers. Oh how the tables have turned.
Here, Popcorn Time and Cuevana are probably two of the most prolific streaming sites on offer; both of them available for absolutely free and therefore, quite literally, giving sites like Netflix a run for their money.
The Popcorn Time story is an interesting one, in that after meticulous development and, dare I say it, an even more attractive homepage and library to Netflix, the site did end up closing temporarily just a few months ago, after much controversy over its adherence to viewing standards. The developers (who remain anonymous), described themselves as “a bunch of geeks from Buenos Aires”, posted a long and heartfelt goodbye to their faithful followers, declaring: “Popcorn Time is shutting down today. Not because we ran out of energy, commitment, focus or allie. But because we need to move on with our lives.” Needless to say, a few months later it’s up and running again, with a defiant message at the top of its new homepage: ‘
This Popcorn Time service will never be taken down’.
And so it seems, Popcorn Time will continue to provide its impressive array of free torrent movies in HD quality (very possibly to the annoyance of Netflix) and no doubt win over many more viewers with its no nonsense approach, roller coaster legal battles and, it has to be said, it’s very cute popcorn icon (gets me every time!).
Cuevana, which has been a huge deal in South America over the years; was reported to have brought in at least half a million viewers daily back in the day.** The site was created by three young entrepreneurs: Mario Cardosio, David Fernández and Tomás Escobar, and became known for its endless free movies and TV shows, some viewers even testifying to its ‘more complete’ library in comparison to Netflix (surely not hard). However, like Popcorn Time, Cuevana wasn’t without much controversy. In fact, over two years ago, the company was taken to court by the global network giant that is HBO, who were claiming a violation of their intellectual property rights.
Cuevana defended themselves by making the point that they were not hosting content themselves but using external links to provide content to their many users. HBO won and Cuevana shut down its site, however, only a few months later, unsurprisingly going live again. Since its resurrection, there have been attempts by the company to make things more kosher, as well as efforts to catch up with the likes of ‘Popcorn Time,’ however, as one past subscriber commented, Cuevana’s “días de gloria” are now gone.
Looking more widely, it will be interesting to see where streaming will go in the next couple of years, especially with heavyweights like Netflix allowing their attractive US library to become more accessible (via VPN) and Amazon just recently launching their own streaming site: ‘Prime Instant Video’.
The question is, where will Argentina sit among these beasts and will their efforts withstand legal battles and Hollywood coming down on them like a ton of bricks? It remains to be seen…
Yet one thing is for sure, Argentine developers will do their best not to get left behind.
* Source: statista.com
** Source: La Nación